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5 weeks pregnant

5 weeks pregnant + vitamin A A-ok?

Summary

You probably now know that you’re pregnant – congratulations! At around 5 weeks, your baby’s vital organs are developing fast and their heart may already be beating1. Now’s the time to focus on getting the right nutritional balance to support the important development that occurs during weeks 5–8 of pregnancy. Learn how to get a healthy level of vitamin A, and why too much or too little may not be safe.

A tiny heart starts beating

In week 5 of pregnancy, your baby, technically called an embryo, measures a little over 1mm long1. But already their brain, spinal cord, and blood vessels are beginning to develop, albeit on a microscopic scale2. Their circulatory system is also developing and it’s at around the end of week 5 that your baby’s heart starts to beat1.

"Your baby’s development at 5 weeks"

Meanwhile, the umbilical cord, which will deliver nutrients to your baby, is beginning to form2. The amniotic sac, soon to be filled with a clear, pale fluid to cushion your baby, starts to take shape too3.

This may be the week that you find out for certain that you’re pregnant. If you’re not convinced by the absence of your menstrual period and other symptoms such as tender breasts and tiredness, your hormone levels should be high enough at 5 weeks pregnant to confirm the news on a home pregnancy test4.

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Is vitamin A safe?

In small doses, vitamin A is essential to the development of cells, skin, healthy vision and the immune system. Fortunately, a healthy, balanced diet is likely to provide all the vitamin A your baby needs. There’s little to no risk of deficiency for pregnant mums in the UK – it’s more common in developing countries where malnutrition is a problem.

“Your need for vitamin A increases only slightly during pregnancy.”

What you need to be more aware of is not getting too much of this vital but potent nutrient, which in large amounts may cause development problems in your unborn baby5.

Vitamin A is available in two forms: as retinol from animal products, and from carotenoids, a group of substances found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables that the body can convert into vitamin A.

The richest sources of vitamin A, including liver, liver pâté and non-pregnancy supplements that contain it, should be avoided6. If you are taking a multivitamin, now is the time to switch to a prenatal multivitamin that is tailored to the needs of you and your baby.

Next Steps

Nourish your baby with a balanced diet that includes the following sources of vitamin A:

  • Cheese
  • Some yogurts (those with a higher fat content)
  • Fortified low-fat spreads
  • Eggs (cook them well to reduce any risk of food poisoning)

Add the following sources of carotenoids to your shopping list7:

  • Green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
  • Cantaloupe melon, mangoes and apricots
  • Orange and yellow vegetables, including carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin

View references

Hide references

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1. Deans A. Your New Pregnancy Bible, The experts’ guide to pregnancy and early parenthood. 4th ed. London: Carroll & Brown Publishers Limited, 2013. p. 31.

2. NHS UK. You and your baby at 0-8 weeks pregnant [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-4-5-6-7-8.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

3. NHS UK. What is the amniotic sac? [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2310.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

4. NHS UK. Doing a pregnancy test [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-test.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

5. Department of Health. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. London: TSO, 1991.

6. NHS UK. Foods to avoid in pregnancy [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/foods-to-avoid-pregnant.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

7. British Nutrition Foundation. Vitamins [Online]. 2009. Available at: www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients/vitamins?start=2 [Accessed July 2014]

Last reviewed: 7th July 2016

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