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Maternal vitamin A status and its importance in infancy and early childhood.

Early fetal vitamin A supplies must be regulated to avoid teratogenic consequences from too little or too much. Late in gestation, adequate maternal vitamin A status is important for newborn reserves and for sustaining adequate breast-milk concentrations. Vitamin A supplements are not needed for most pregnant women in Western countries who consume the recommended dietary allowance during their reproductive years. Increased consumption of vitamin A-rich foods can meet increased needs during lactation.

 Women in developing countries whose habitual intakes are near basal needs should receive an additional 100 micrograms retinol equivalents (RE) during pregnancy and 300 micrograms RE during lactation. Supplements not above 3000 micrograms RE (10,000 IU) daily are safe for fertile women where circumstances preclude obtaining the needed increment through diet. The first postpartum month is the only safe period during which to provide deficient lactating women with a single high-dose supplement to benefit the mother and breast-feeding infant for several months.