Benefits of Cod Liver Oil During Pregnancy

pregnant woman holding stomach

Is it safe to use cod liver oil during pregnancy?

Taking fish oils during pregnancy can provide your baby with essential fatty acids and other important nutrients for growth.

Now cod liver oil, in particular, contains the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as vitamin A and Vitamin D.

Reports indicate that these healthy fats have been shown positive effects on fetal growth, vision and a reduced risk for allergies and asthma.

The vitamins A and D also offer health benefits for your pregnancy.

Doctors claim that having low levels of Vitamin D may increase your baby’s risk for abnormal bone growth, low birth weight and even an early birth.

The vitamin deficiency can  also increase your risk for pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

If you’re a pregnant mother, you may have concerns about excessive exposure to certain vitamins, minerals or nutrients that could jeopardize your pregnancy.

While you’re getting the healthy fats from cod liver oil, you’re also ingesting a source of vitamins A and vitamin D.

It turns out that the vitamins A and vitamin D happen to be ‘fat-soluble’ vitamins. This means that if you get too much of either vitamins in your diet, the excess get stored in your fat cells.

While this situation is generally rare, it’s possible to create a build-up of these vitamins in the body which could increase the risk for complications.

Taking Cod Liver Oil during Pregnancy and Vitamin A Exposure

Some researchers have suggested that pregnant women, and women who may become pregnant, should avoid high levels of vitamin A due to an increased risk of births defects.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development did a study to investigate what are safe vitamin A levels in pregnant women.

They found that moderate doses of vitamin A during pregnancy didn’t pose a risk for birth defects.

What is a Safe Dose of Vitamin A?

A Vitamin A Fact Sheet from The National Institute of Health suggests the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A is 2,670 IU.

However, research shows some women can take up to 8000-10,000 IU (triple the RDI) without adverse affects.

One (1) teaspoon of cod liver oil can provide up to 1200 IU of vitamin A (depending on the brand); this is about 50% of the daily RDI.

Based on these values, one (1) teaspoon a day of cod liver oil would keep you well within the limit for safe consumption of vitamin A for optimal health.

Even though you are getting up to 50% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A through cod liver oil, you should still be aware of possible cod liver oil side effects.

Using a pharmaceutical grade fish oil will reduce your risk for fishy breath, upset stomach and even possible exposure to contaminants.

Cod Liver Oil may Reduce Risk for Childhood Diabetes

Did you know that cod liver oil may reduce your child’s risk for getting diabetes later in life?

The World Health Organization estimates over 177 million people have diabetes.

Research shows almost 80% of diabetics may die of heart disease or stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, blindness and amputations.

smiling mother holding baby up close to her face

A recent study showed pregnant mothers who supplemented their diets with cod liver oil (or vitamin D supplements) had a lower risk for their child to develop diabetes.

Another study involving over 400 pregnant mothers showed that taking cod liver oil during pregnancy may lead to giving birth to heavier babies. Doctors have found that newborn babies with higher birth weights had a lower risk for diseases later in life.

Cod Liver Oil may Boost IQ in Babies

Using cod liver oil during pregnancy may even help boost your unborn baby’s intelligence.

Researchers had healthy pregnant women take 10 ml. of cod liver oil at Week 18 of their pregnancies.

They continued taking cod liver oil during pregnancy until 3 months after giving birth. When these mothers’ babies turned 4 years old, researchers tested the infants’ problem-solving skills and mental processing abilities.

Scientists discovered that the babies getting cod liver oil during pregnancy achieved higher overall IQ scores than babies whose mothers didn’t take cod liver oil.

There is also research showing that taking fish oils during pregnancy may lead to babies with a lower risk for allergies, enhanced visual acuity and focusing skills and decreased risk for asthma.


Cod liver oil is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A & D.

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have positive effects on fetal growth, vision, neurological effects and reduced risk for allergies and asthma.

Should you take cod liver oil during pregnancy?

Studies appear to indicate that the biggest concern would be getting too much exposure to vitamin A and D.

The only way check your vitamin A or D levels is by getting a blood test through your doctor.

close-up of pregnant mother's hands on her stomach

Some expecting mothers may not prefer the strong fishy taste of cod liver oil. To avoid this, you can try using a lemon-flavored cod liver oil, or you could simply swallow cod liver oil capsules which can minimize tasting the oil.

Make sure to read my Guide to the Best Cod Liver Oils to help you choose the best product.

Following the recommended daily allowances is the best way to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

It’s recommended you consult with your doctor/obstetrician before taking cod liver oil to ensure you have a healthy and happy pregnancy.

Research References:

Relationship between high consumption of marine fatty acids in early pregnancy and hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. BJOG – International Journal of Obstestrics and Gynocology. 2006 Mar;113(3):301-9, Olafsdottir AS, Skuladottir GV, Thorsdottir I, Hauksson A, Thorgeirsdottir H, Steingrimsdottir L.

Relationship between dietary intake of cod liver oil in early pregnancy and birthweight. BJOG – International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynocology. 2005 Apr;112(4):424-9. Olafsdottir AS, Magnusardottir AR, Thorgeirsdottir H, Hauksson A, Skuladottir GV, Steingrimsdottir L.

Use of cod liver oil during the first year of life is associated with lower risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a large, population-based, case-control study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003 Dec;78(6):1128-34. Stene LC, Joner G; Norwegian Childhood Diabetes Study Group.

Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e39-44 Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA.

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