By Dr. Dean Raffelock
The most common question that pregnant women ask me goes something like this: “My obstetrician says that it is very dangerous for me to take vitamin A while I am pregnant. As an expert in nutrition, what is your opinion?”
No doubt, there is a lot of fear and confusion on this topic. So let’s get right down to the truth of the matter. As usual, the truth is to be found in the middle of two opposite points of view. One point of view is that pregnant women should avoid taking any vitamin A. The other point of view is that pregnant women do not need to be concerned at all with their vitamin A consumption, because the risks are minimal.
So let’s clarify the issue so you can make the most informed choice for yourself and your baby:
In 1995, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that showed strong evidence that approximately 1.7 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. consuming greater than 10,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin A (retinol) per day during the first 7 weeks of their pregnancy gave birth to children afflicted with some form of birth defect. This was one out of every 57 women. This created a wave of fear in obstetricians and their pregnant patients that continues to this day.
The good news about this study is that it alerted doctors to strongly caution their pregnant patients that consuming over 10,000 IUs of vitamin A per day for the first 7 weeks of pregnancy can be risky. To my thinking, this should also hold true for women of childbearing age who are actively trying to become pregnant. Women who are given very high dosages of vitamin A for acne treatments should avoid becoming pregnant until their blood levels of vitamin A are well within the normal range.