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Pregnancy Topics..

You are here : home > Pregnancy > Weight Gain, Diet & Exercise > Importance of Vitamin A in a Pregnancy Diet

Importance of Vitamin A in a Pregnancy Diet

‘Vitamin A’, an important vitamin for the baby, helps in the development of heart, lungs, kidney, bones and eyes, and to have a strong immune system. A pregnant woman gets enough of ‘Vitamin A’ from a healthy diet. Do not to take ‘Vitamin A’ supplement as this may harm the baby. However, you should also keep a track of any signs of ‘Vitamin A’ deficiency during pregnancy.

Basics of ‘Vitamin A’

‘Vitamin A’ represents two nutrient types:
  • Preformed ‘Vitamin A’ (Retinol or Retinoids): Available through meat and fish, and also in dairy foods, liver and eggs. These are directly used by the body.
  • Pro’Vitamin A’ Carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin): Available through fruits and vegetables. These are converted into ‘Vitamin A’, where beta-carotene is the most important as it converts more efficiently than other carotenes.

Benefits of ‘Vitamin A’

‘Vitamin A’ helps in the development of two most important parts of the baby:
  • Eyes: Helps in baby’s visual development.
  • Immune System: Helps in development of baby’s central nervous system, pulmonary system, and circulatory system. It helps in building a strong resistance power to fight infections by promoting healthy fat metabolism.
Recommended Amount of ‘Vitamin A’

‘Vitamin A’ is measured in Retinol Activity Equivalent (RAE) and International Unit (IU). IU, an old standard of measurement, is used mostly on supplement labels. However, as mentioned before, ‘Vitamin A’ supplements should not be consumed during pregnancy. It can be taken through a healthy diet.

1microgram (mcg) of Preformed ‘Vitamin A’ = 1mcg RAE

12mcg of beta-carotene / 24mcg of alpha-carotene = 1mcg RAE

1mcg RAE = 3.3 IU

Recommended doses of ‘Vitamin A’ per day are as follows:
  • Pregnant women, 19 and older: 770mcg RAE (~2,565 IU)
  • Pregnant women, 18 and younger: 750mcg (~2,500 IU)
  • Breastfeeding women, 19 and older: 1,300mcg RAE (~4,330 IU)
  • Breastfeeding women, 18 and younger: 1,200mcg RAE (~4,000 IU)
Maximum Doses of ‘Vitamin A’ per day are as follows:
  • Pregnant women, 19 and older: Not more than 3,000mcg RAE (~10,000 IU)
  • Pregnant women, 18 and younger: Not more than 2800mcg RAE (~9,240 IU)

Dietary Sources of ‘Vitamin A’

Have a quick look at the dietary sources of ‘Vitamin A’.

Fruits and Vegetables

Best source of beta-carotene are fruits and vegetables, especially orange, yellow and green leafy vegetables. These include carrots, oranges, apricots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach and kale.

Dairy Products

Dairy products which contain preformed ‘Vitamin A’ include cheese and yogurt.

Animal Sources

These contain preformed ‘Vitamin A’. It is provided through beef and fish.

However, you should avoid foods which are rich in ‘Vitamin A’, such as liver pate and liver from veal, chicken, and beef, and supplements that contain cod liver oil.

‘Vitamin A’ Deficiency (VAD)

Although ‘Vitamin A’ is available from a healthy diet but many pregnant women suffer from ‘Vitamin A’ Deficiency (VAD) in developing countries. They are vulnerable to VAD throughout pregnancy but mostly in the third trimester when baby’s requirement for vitamins increase. It leads to night blindness, anaemia, and weak immune system. You may also experience dryness and thickening of the cornea, a condition called xerophthalmia.

‘Vitamin A’ Overdose

If you experience excessive headache, vomiting, nausea, impaired vision, you might be suffering from overdose of ‘Vitamin A’. It causes liver toxicity and birth defects.

A healthy and balanced diet provides adequate amount of ‘Vitamin A’ needed by the pregnant woman. Total intake, in the form of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, supplements which contain ‘Vitamin A’ (taken to fulfil other vitamin needs during pregnancy) should not exceed the maximum amount allowed as mentioned above. However, keep a track of your intake so that you do not suffer from VAD. Make sure that you discuss your diet during pregnancy with your doctor. Do not take any supplements which are not prescribed by your doctor to avoid complications during pregnancy.

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