Vitamin A and birth defects

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Jul;177(1):31-6. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(97)70434-4.


Objective: Our objective was to determine whether moderate doses of vitamin A are teratogenic.

Study design: This was a geographically based case-control study. Women whose pregnancies produced offspring with neural tube defects (n = 548) or major malformations other than neural tube defects (n = 387) and normal control subjects (n = 573) were interviewed to determine periconceptional vitamin A supplement exposure levels.

Results: The proportion of women consuming doses of vitamin A between 8000 and 25,000 IU was no greater in the major malformations group or the group with neural tube defects than in the normal control group. For exposure from supplements and fortified cereals combined, women consuming >8000 and >10,000 IU daily had odds ratios for major malformations of 0.79 (95% confidence interval 0.40 to 1.53) and 0.73 (95% confidence interval 0.27 to 1.96), respectively, compared with women consuming <5000 IU. The results for neural tube defects were similar. For cranial neural crest defects the odds ratios were 0.76 (0.22 to 2.56) and 1.09 (0.24 to 4.98) for exposure to >8000 and >10,000 IU, respectively, versus exposure to <5000 IU.

Conclusions: This study found no association between periconceptional vitamin A exposure at doses >8000 IU or >10,000 IU per day and malformations in general, cranial neural crest defects, or neural tube defects. If vitamin A is a teratogen, the minimum teratogenic dose appears to be well above the level consumed by most women during organogenesis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neural Crest / abnormalities*
  • Neural Tube Defects / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Vitamin A / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin A / adverse effects


  • Vitamin A