Is It Safe To Eat Liver During Pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, what you eat may directly influence fetal growth and development. Therefore, your doctor may suggest you eat some nutrition-rich foods more while completely avoiding other foods. However, some foods are tricky; for example, eating liver during pregnancy may have both beneficial and negative impacts on the fetal development.

Although the liver is a good source of many essential nutrients, consuming too much may have negative consequences.

This post will guide you on the forms in which the liver is consumed and the benefits as well as negative impacts of consuming the liver during pregnancy.

In This Article

Forms Of Liver

Liver can be eaten as liver sausage.

Image: Shutterstock

The liver is eaten in many forms in different parts of the world:

  • Liver Pâté
  • Chopped liver
  • Liver sausage

Whatever be the form of the liver that you are consuming, the impact is almost the same. Some difference lies in the source from where the liver is coming.

Benefits Of Eating Liver During Pregnancy

The liver has many nutrients which are good for maternal health. It contains (1):

According to gynecologist & obstetrician Dr. Nisarg Patel, “The liver can be healthy for the baby if consumed in moderation and cooked thoroughly. The liver can provide essential nutrients such as protein, iron, folic acid, zinc, copper, and vitamin B12. These nutrients can support the baby’s brain, immune system, and metabolism.”

While protein and folic acid are important for supporting your baby’s growth, iron ensures the formation of adequate hemoglobin in the blood. It is the Vitamin A part that may cause problems.

Negatives Of Eating Liver During Pregnancy

Excess vitamin A causes fetal nervous system development issues.

Image: Shutterstock

The liver contains the most concentrated form of Vitamin A (1). The exact amount found in various sources will differ. For example, beef liver will have a higher degree of Vitamin A than chicken liver. But even in small quantities, it can cause harm because vitamin A in the liver is in the form of retinol. Excessive intake of vitamin A in this form can lead to congenital disabilitiesiXPhysical abnormalities existing right from birth (2).

  • The Vitamin A in the liver is in the form of retinol.
  • Excessive intake of vitamin in this preformed version can lead to birth defects.
  • The defects can be in the form of mutationsiXThe alteration of the structure or sequence of genes which may result in a changed phenotype and can even lead to development of cancerous cells. According to reports released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in every 33, which translates to about 120,000 babies, are born with birth defects in the US every year.
  • So retinol is considered harmful for pregnant women and should be avoided in any form.

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), women in developed countries rarely have vitamin A deficiency, so eating high amounts of liver and liver products can cause increased vitamin A levels resulting in issues with the fetal nervous system development (3). Moreover, the liver is also high in cholesterol, which is unhealthy for pregnant and non-pregnant people.

How Much To Consume?

There is no clear evidence that prescribes a certain quantity of liver that can be consumed while you are pregnant. So, it all depends on your personal judgment. However, avoiding it will be the best course of action due to higher concentrations of vitamin A which is a fat soluble vitamin and its excess quantity doesn’t get excreted easily. You can have other forms of vitamin A which are safer(4).

It is said that about 2500 international units of Vitamin A can be safely consumed per day during pregnancy. Women who take a higher amount are at risk of facing birth defects and complications(5).

What To Avoid?

Pregnant women should avoid supplements with cod liver oil.

Image: Shutterstock

When you are abstaining from having liver, you must also try and stay away from these products:

  • Spreads or sauces that contain traces of the liver.
  • Supplements having Cod liver oil or shark liver oil.
  • Medicines or supplements which have a high concentration of Vitamin A in the retinol form.
  • Skin care products that have retinol as a component.

Other Sources Of Vitamin A

Carrots and pumpkins are good for the development of the baby.

Image: Shutterstock

Now that you know about the ill effects of eating liver, you need to find some alternative sources of Vitamin A that are good for your baby’s development. Some of them can be (5):

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Turnip Greens
  • Beet Greens
  • Red peppers
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Apricots
  • Cheese
  • Egg
  • Oily fish

These sources are great for building good vision and immunity and act as effective antioxidants. The best part is that Vitamin A in these vegetables is in the form of beta carotene, which is good for your body and can be easily introduced to your maternal diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does beef liver have folate?

100g raw beef liver contains around 290µg of folate (6).

2. Is liver sausage or chopped liver safe in pregnancy?

The NHS recommends that pregnant women avoid consuming any food containing liver and liver products (7).

Liver consumption during pregnancy can be beneficial since it is a protein, folic acid, and iron rich food. However, the liver also contains high amounts of vitamin A in the form of retinol, which may increase the risk of congenital abnormalities. Hence, some doctors recommend against consuming liver and liver products such as cod liver oil supplements and sauces containing liver. Instead, you could include carrots, pumpkin, spinach, etc., in your pregnancy diet for a healthy dose of vitamin A. However, if you are craving liver during pregnancy, consult your gynecologist to know if you can safely consume it and add it in your balanced diet.

Infographic: Vegetarian Alternatives To Liver And Meat

Although you enjoy eating liver during pregnancy, there may be moments when you may not crave it. During such situations, you may consider the following vegetarian options packed with a lot of nourishment. Check out this infographic that will help you with some vegetarian alternatives for liver or meat.

What to have when you can’t have liver (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Liver is a rich source of folic acid and essential nutrients that are beneficial during pregnancy.
  • Consuming excessive quantities of the liver during pregnancy might increase the risks of problems associated with the baby’s nervous system.
  • It is also advised to avoid other food sources that might contain liver, such as cod oil or liver sauces and spreads.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional to learn about proper liver intake amount during pregnancy.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. The Liver Files.
    https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/the-liver-files/
  2. Vitamin A Excess.
    https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-in/home/disorders-of-nutrition/vitamins/vitamin-a-excess#:~:text=Consuming%20too%20much%20vitamin%20A%20over%20a%20long%20period%20of
  3. Healthy eating and vitamin supplements in pregnancy patient information leaflet.
    https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-our-patient-information/healthy-eating-and-vitamin-supplements-in-pregnancy-patient-information-leaflet/
  4. Vitamin A in pregnancy: a review.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12288485/#:~:text=The%20International%20Vitamin%20A%20Consultative
  5. Vitamin A.
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
  6. Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, raw.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169451/nutrients
  7. Foods to avoid in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/
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