Posts Tagged ‘vitamin A’

Congenital heart defects

Friday, December 18th, 2009

There have been some painful posts and resulting discussion this week on congenital heart defects (CHD) on Twitter. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background information about these conditions and what the March of Dimes is doing to help.

About 35,000 infants (1 out of every 125) are born with heart defects each year in the United States. The term congenital heart defect is a general term used to describe many types of rare heart disorders. The term congenital heart defect is not a diagnosis in itself. Some of the most common heart defects include: patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), septal defects, coarctation of the aorta, heart valve abnormalities, tetralogy of fallot, transposition of the great arteries, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Click here to learn more.

Over the past ten years, the March of Dimes has invested over $36 million in heart related research, including CHDs.  A number of scientists funded by the March of Dimes are studying genes that may underlie specific heart defects. The goal of this research is to better understand the causes of congenital heart defects, in order to develop ways to prevent them. Grantees also are looking at how environmental factors (such as a form of vitamin A called retinoic acid) may contribute to congenital heart defects. One grantee is seeking to understand why some babies with serious heart defects develop brain injuries, in order to learn how to prevent and treat them.

If you have questions or concerns about a specific birth defect, please drop us a note at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we’ll gladly provide you with information.

Vitamin A – How much should I take?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

vitamins-26377178_thm1We talk about the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy, but there are other vitamins to consider, too. Some are good, some in high doses aren’t so great during pregnancy.  While vitamin A is needed for normal fetal growth and development, taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Start keeping an eye on your vitamin A consumption before pregnancy. Watch what you eat as well as the vitamins you take.

The body is able to make its own vitamin A, when needed, from substances such as beta carotene, which is found in yellow and green vegetables. This raw material for the vitamin is considered completely safe and healthy during pregnancy. However, much of the vitamin A we consume is the preformed vitamin (retinol) which, in excessive amounts, may cause birth defects. Preformed vitamin A is found in many vitamin supplements and some foods, including meats, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Liver is the only food that provides very high amounts of vitamin A. The amount of vitamin A found in liver varies. For example, a 3-ounce serving of beef liver may contain 27,000 IU and chicken liver, 12,000 IU. A pregnant woman who eats liver regularly may consume enough vitamin A to pose a risk to her baby.  Though it is not proven that eating liver causes birth defects, the safest approach is for pregnant women to minimize their consumption of liver.

A pregnant woman also should be sure that her multivitamin or prenatal supplement contains no more than 5,000 IU (international units) of preformed vitamin A (some prenatal vitamins contain no preformed vitamin A, substituting beta-carotene or omitting vitamin A entirely), and she should not take any vitamin A supplements beyond that amount.

Before taking any supplement, talk with your health care provider about whether you personally need it and, if so, how much you should take.  And when it comes to vitamin A, be sure to discuss your diet, too.