The Safety of supplemental Vitamin A during pregnancy.


First of all, it is important to underline how vitally important vitamin A is to the health and development of the baby. This nutrient is required for healthy immune system function, brain and eye development, a fully functioning immune system as well as healthy skin and mucous membranes. Studies have linked prenatal Vitamin A deficiency to many adverse outcomes including anaemia, malformations, intrauterine growth retardation and premature delivery.

Less than optimal dietary habits can come to the fore in pregnancy when demands can be significantly higher. Dietary Vitamin A comes in two distinct forms; beta-carotene, from plant-based foods and retinol forms from animal-based foods.

The table below illustrates the best food sources of both forms

Beta-Carotene (a provitamin carotenoid)

Retinyl Palmitate (a retinol form of vitamin A)


Beef Liver

Sweet potatoes

Lamb Liver

Dark Leafy Greens

Cod Liver Oil



Romaine Lettuce

Salmon (preferably wild)

Red & Yellow Peppers





High doses of beta-carotene as a source of vitamin A has never been found to cause toxicity and many prenatal supplements only include this form. Retinol forms, such as palmitate is a fat-soluble form and excess is stored in the body’s fatty tissues. The justification of some manufacturers for doing so is that beta-carotene gets converted by enzymes in the body to the active form of Vitamin A called Retinol. The problem with this approach is that a significant number of people have a genetic polymorphism that prevents beta-carotene from being converted into Retinol which could then lead to a possible functional Vitamin A deficiency.

The palmitate form, on the other hand, is fat-soluble and although rare, there have been instances where levels became too high, causing toxicity. As there are no adverse effects of beta-carotene intake it is important to note that this form of Vitamin A is not counted towards the tolerable upper intake level.

The advice I give to my clients who are pregnant is to source a high-quality prenatal multivitamin that can allow for any nutritional shortfalls during this critical period. The product should include both forms of Vitamin A. None of the prenatal products we have available on our website have levels of Vitamin A as Retinyl Palmitate above the FDA upper tolerable limit of 3000 mcg RAE.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Vital Nutrients: PreNatal Multi-Nutrients

Seeking Health: Optimal Prenatal Chewable

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