Vitamin A during pregnancy: Why and how much do you need?

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vitamin A during pregnancy

Vitamin A during pregnancy is important for visual health, immune function and foetal growth and development. Deficiency of vitamin A can cause visual impairment in the form of night blindness and, in children, it may increase the risk of illness and death from childhood infections, including measles and those causing diarrhoea.

Vitamin a during pregnancy – Pregnancy is a time of building, multiplying, and growth within a woman’s body. For cells to grow and multiply, your body and your baby require the support of vitamin A. In addition to supporting growth, this vitamin serves as an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it helps protect your cells from damaging factors such as pollution, UV rays, and emotional stress. Pregnant women are most susceptible to vitamin A deficiency throughout gestation. Susceptibility is at its highest during the third trimester of pregnancy due to the accelerated foetal development and the physiological increase in blood volume during this period.

vitamin A during pregnancy

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Vitamin A is important for your baby’s embryonic growth, including the development of the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, and bones as well as the circulatory, respiratory, and central nervous systems. It helps with postpartum tissue repair. It also helps maintain normal vision, fights infections, supports your immune system, and helps with fat metabolism.

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This vitamin 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

Getting the right amount of this vitamin in pregnancy is a bit of a balancing act; too much can harm your developing baby and lead to birth defects, while too little carries certain risks to you and your baby’s development. A healthy intake will ensure that your baby gets the nutritional support he/she needs for normal development.

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Getting the balance right

Your Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI – the amount considered to be enough to meet most people’s needs) of vitamin A in pregnancy is slightly higher than normal, at 100mcg per day. Once you start breastfeeding, your needs will increase further, to 350mcg per day.

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Sources of retinol include Cheese, Fortified spreads, Yogurt, Eggs.

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 Carrots, Oranges, Sweet potatoes, Apricots.

vitamin A during pregnancy

What If You Do Not Get Enough Vitamin A?

The lack of Vitamin A in an expecting mother can lead to issues such as anaemia, weak immunity, and vision problems, especially related to night vision. Its deficiency during pregnancy can lead to a condition called xerophthalmia. Xerophthalmia is when the cornea thickens. This causes failure to produce tears. Severe deficiency of this vitamin can also prove fatal in some instances for both mother and child. A low level of vitamin A can also affect your baby’s immune function after birth. It leaves them more susceptible to infection and illness.

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Too Much Vitamin A:

Chronic intake of Vitamin A that greatly exceeds the recommended daily allowance leads to clinical manifestations of hypervitaminosis A with toxic effects to the central nervous system, liver, bone, and skin.

Maintain a healthy intake of this vitamin by:

  • Making sure any supplements you take don’t contain vitamin A
  • Avoiding liver or liver products
  • Including plenty of orange-coloured fruit and vegetables as a part of a healthy balanced diet, as well as dairy food and eggs