How Safe Is Vitamin A During Pregnancy?
Is It Safe? Being Pregnant

How Safe Is Vitamin A During Pregnancy?

By Amy Morrison

I was surprised at how complicated this one got.

Turns out that there are two kinds of vitamin A: carotenoids (including beta-carotene) which is found in fruits and vegetables and is converted into vitamin A by your body; and preformed, (retinoid form) that is found in meats and fortified foods – which essentially means it’s already been converted by something else.

Vitamin A keeps our eyes, skin and immune system healthy and plays a key role in maintaining healthy vision.

You need it.

Okay, now here’s where it gets tricky. Too much preformed vitamin A can cause birth defects such as malformations of the head and face, the central nervous system, the thymus, and the heart. Oh, okay, great.

The current recommended daily allowance for adult or pregnant people seems to be around 2,700 IU.


So what does that mean for you? Well, it looks like the biggest no-no is liver. Now, I can personally think of a thousand reasons not to eat liver but you may really enjoy it. I was once at a party and my friend had to lean in to tell me something and I said, “Cheryl, why in the hell does your breath smell like cat food?” Turns out she was eating paté (or Fancy Feast).

That said, it looks like not all liver is created equal. Just to give you an idea, 1 oz of goose liver (which I’m going to guess is about the size of four dice if it’s the same weight as cheese) is 933 IUs, beef liver is around 8881 IUs, and chicken liver is 4026 IUs. Most paté is made from goose liver so it looks like a couple of crackers will still be under your limit. Plus, when you google the facts on paté and pregnancy, most sites get their knickers in a knot over the listeria danger (similar to cold cuts) and not the vitamin A which usually indicates you’d have to constantly exceed your daily limit to do any damage.

Oh, and just so you know, eating polar bear liver will kill you (pregnant or not) so steer clear of that tonight.

Most other things like milk, salmon and eggs really don’t contain enough vitamin A to get scary. It looks like you’d have to eat around 40 eggs a day (Cool Hand Luke style) to exceed your recommended intake.

Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman was so beautiful)

Face Creams:

No studies have shown that face creams containing retinoids, such as Retin-A, Retinol, etc., are harmful during pregnancy but most sites get twitchy about it and advise that you try to avoid it.

On the other hand, Isotretinoin (Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis, Sotretwhich) which is man-made form of vitamin A acne medication, and Tazorac have been classed as a no no by the FDA. Which is code for stay-the-hell-away-from-it if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.

A safe alternative might be bakuchiol.


As for plant-based, beta-carotene vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, cooked spinach, butternut squash, dried apricots, peppers, cantaloupe, etc.; go for it. Your body has to convert the beta-carotene to vitamin A so it regulates how much it needs then ditches the rest.

In short: Carrots: Yes. Liver, Accutane and Fancy Feast: No.

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