The brilliance of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is important for your developing baby; it helps to build their immune system and is needed for healthy skin and eyes. Too much, however, can be harmful. Learn which sources of this immune-enhancing nutrient to include in your pregnancy diet and which foods and supplements to avoid to ensure a safe intake.
|Vitamin A helps to support:
Normal visual development
|Vitamin A helps to support:
Immune system development
What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A contributes to the development of two of the most intricate and extraordinary parts of your baby’s body – their eyes. It is also important for their immunity and skin cell production, while helping to develop the millions of tiny air sacs, called alveoli, in your baby’s lungs. These allow oxygen to transfer into the blood, and carbon dioxide to transfer back out.
Vitamin A is available in two forms:
- Retinol – found in high levels in some meat and fish products, and in safe levels in dairy foods and eggs
- Beta-carotene – a substance in fruit and vegetables that the body can convert into vitamin A
Is vitamin A bad for pregnancy?
Getting the right amount of vitamin A in pregnancy is a bit of a balancing act; too much can harm your developing baby and lead to birth defects1, while too little carries certain risks to you and your baby’s development. A healthy intake will ensure your baby gets the nutritional support they need for normal development. Fortunately, this is easy to achieve by following the simple but important guidelines below.
Why is vitamin A important for mum in pregnancy?
Due to its supporting role in the immune system, vitamin A benefits your own health throughout pregnancy. An adequate, safe intake is important at all stages. However, your risk of deficiency is higher during the third trimester when requirements increase due to your baby’s accelerated development and increased blood volume. Your body naturally prioritises your baby’s needs, which is why you need more.
Building up your baby’s stores
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it is stored in the liver and fat cells of the body. A healthy supply of vitamin A during pregnancy builds up your baby’s natural stores in preparation for the first few months of life.
A low level of vitamin A can affect your baby’s immune function after birth, leaving them more susceptible to infection and illness.
Getting the balance right
Your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A in pregnancy is 750ug per day and increases to 1200ug per day while you breastfeed.
Because it is found in dairy foods and some fruit and vegetables, most people get all the vitamin A they need from a well-balanced diet.
Certain foods that are high in vitamin A, such as liver and liver pâté, are on the list of foods to avoid in pregnancy. As long as you avoid these foods, your intake should fall within safe levels and not pose any risks to your baby’s development. Some non-pregnancy supplements also contain high levels of vitamin A, such as cod liver oil, which should be avoided.
Sources of retinol (the animal-based form of vitamin A) include:
- Fortified spreads
Your body will convert the beta-carotene that gives certain fruit and vegetables their orange colour into vitamin A. Beta-carotene can be found in:
- Sweet potatoes
Maintain a healthy intake of vitamin A by:
- Making sure any supplements you take don’t contain vitamin A
- Avoiding liver or liver products like pâté
- Including plenty of orange-coloured fruit and vegetables as a part of a healthy balanced diet, as well as dairy foods and eggs
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.