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Most experts agree that it is safe to take vitamin E in pregnancy, provided it's taken in moderation. In small amounts, the vitamin has actually been shown to be quite beneficial to pregnant women and their unborn children, and this is one of the main reasons the compound is usually included in prenatal multivitamins. Getting too much can cause problems, though. There are a number of risks associated with excessive consumption, and pregnant patients generally shouldn’t take supplement capsules unless specifically recommended by a health care provider. Even women who don’t regularly take prenatal vitamins normally get enough through ordinary dietary sources to meet the needs of themselves and their babies. Fewer studies have been performed on topical vitamin preparations, namely creams, lotions, and oils; in general, though, these are uniformly safe for pregnant women, since they aren’t normally absorbed into the bloodstream but rather stay within the layers of the skin.
Understanding the Nutrient Generally
Vitamin E is a naturally occurring compound found in foods like dairy products, meat, and many plant foods. The human body doesn’t synthesize this nutrient on its own, which means that people need to get it through their diet. Among other things, it helps to build muscle and create oxygen-carrying red blood cells. These benefits extend to an unborn child, and research even demonstrates that normal intake of vitamin E in pregnancy can reduce risk factors like asthma in the child as it grows. In fact, when taken in recommended amounts, the vitamin meets the safety standards of most medical organizations. The United States Food and Drug Administration, for example, gives vitamin E a Category A safety rating during pregnancy, provided it’s taken in recommended amounts.
Potential Benefits in Small Doses
Medical professionals traditionally advise pregnant women to ingest about 15 milligrams of the vitamin per day. Most, if not all, of this amount can be obtained through a balanced diet, but adding a prenatal vitamin can cover any gaps safely.
Vitamin E in pregnancy has been linked with a range of benefits, everything from miscarriage prevention to improved immune function in fetuses and newborn children. Some even claim it promotes healthy birth weights. None of these claims, however, have received scientific validation. Because of this, and because of the risk of getting too much, in most cases any additional supplements, like vitamin E capsules or vitamin E oil, are neither needed nor recommended.
Risks Associated with Excessive Supplementation
Some research suggests that taking excessive amounts of vitamin E, typically defined as over 100 mg in a day, in pregnancy can cause harm to the mother. Over the long term, abnormal vitamin E levels may increase the amount and intensity of any blood loss during childbirth. In certain women, high levels of Vitamin E can also cause an allergic reaction that can be very dangerous to both mother and child, and adverse interactions with other prescribed drugs are also possible.
A few studies also suggest a correlation between high vitamin E intake and the risk of stillbirth. Another danger is fetal development of vitamin E dependence. This could cause health complications when the child is born and withdraws from the substance. Since vitamin E can be passed through breast milk, mothers should exercise caution with vitamin E intake even after birth if they plan to nurse their babies.
In most cases there is no concern with topical uses of vitamin E. No coordinated studies have been conducted on any risks between fortified creams and lotions and problems during pregnancy, and in fact many people anecdotally recommend these sorts of products for use on the expanding belly during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks and to help maintain elasticity. Even pure vitamin oil is usually fine for this purpose, since it doesn’t actually enter the body; it soaks into the various layers of the epidermis, but presents none of the risks of ingested supplements or nutrients taken in through food. Importantly, though, rubbing oil onto the skin won’t make up for a deficiency; anyone who isn’t getting enough needs to consume the vitamin orally.