Thanks for your replies. I've done a lot more research on it now and feel a lot more comfortable (but obviously, I will avoid continuing to use it until the second trimester and after I have cleared it with my doctor). Here is some of the information I have found for interest sake:
GENERAL VITAMIN A IN PREGNANCY INFORMATION:
- Adequate supply (but not excess) of vitamin A is necessary during pregnancy for normal foetal development.
- The majority of prenatal vitamins contain some form of vitamin A - either preformed (in the form of retinol or retinyl palmitate) or provitamin A caratenoids (such as beta carotene).
- There is no harm in consuming large amounts of the provitamin A caratenoid form of vitamin A (beta carotene) during pregnancy as this has not been associated with any increase in risk of birth defects.
- As many foods are also fortified with vitamin A (eg. low fat milk), it is recommended that you do not consume a prenatal vitamin with more than 1,500 mcg RAE (5,000 IU) preformed vitamin A.
- Sources differ on the recommended amount of preformed vitamin A to be consumed during pregnancy, however the generally accepted recommendation is a maximum of 3,000 mcg RAE (this is equivalent to 10,000 IU) per day.
- World Health Organization recommendation on Maternal Supplementation During Pregnancy states that "health benefits are expected for the mother and her developing fetus with little risk or detriment to either, from a daily supplement not exceeding 10,000 IU (preformed) vitamin A (3000 mcg RAE) at any time during pregnancy". Preformed vitamin A refers to retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate.
TOPICAL AND ORAL VITAMIN A IN PREGNANCY:
- Oral retinoids (tretinoin, isotretinoin) have been shown to cause birth defects.
- Topical retinoids (tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene - the prescription forms of vitamin A) have not been shown to increase the incidence of birth defects in retrospective studies. Due to the theoretical risk however, they are not recommended in pregnancy.
- The amount of tretinoin and other vitamin A derivatives absorbed through the skin is very low.
- Retinyl palmitate (the vitamin A derivative in Bio-Oil) is a much less potent form of vitamin A than tretinoin.
- Studies have shown that the topical application of retinol and retinol esters (such as retinyl palmitate) at 30,000 IU/day (a huge amount) do not affect plasma concentrations of these compounds (i.e. it was undetectable in the blood stream).
I have found 2 responses/statements:
1) Thank you for your enquiry on Bio-Oil. I hope the following information will put your mind at rest. The level of vitamin A contained in Bio-Oil, Rosemary and Lavender oil etc is suitable for its purpose. These levels are deemed perfectly safe for use during pregnancy. Topically applied vitamin A (and its derivatives) is of much less concern, as it is extremely difficult for high concentrations of vitamin A to penetrate the body via the topically applied route. Moreover, the level of vitamin A Palmitate (retinyl palmitate on the label) in Bio-Oil is much less than that associated with problems of this type. An expectant mother can use up to 10 grams of Bio-Oil per day, topically applied to the skin, before the recommended maximum daily intake of 5,000 I. U. per gram is reached. Not only is this an excessive amount of Bio-Oil, this calculation also assumes that the skin has no barrier function whatsoever and that all the topically applied vitamin A Palmitate would be absorbed into the body. In reality, of course, the skin provides an excellent barrier to penetration and only a small fraction of the topically applied vitamin A Palmitate is likely to be absorbed into the body. Assuming 10% absorption, probably an excessive figure, then an expectant mother would have to use more than 100g of Bio-Oil per day, topically applied, before the recommended daily maximum intake were exceeded.
2) Yes, Bio-Oil is safe to use throughout pregnancy. With regards to the level of Vitamin A in Bio-Oil, it is low enough to render it harmless to the unborn child. Most healthcare professionals agree that for safety the daily intake of Vitamin A by an expectant mother should not exceed 5,000 I.U per gram. Taking absorption factors into account, an expectant mother would have to use more than 110ml of Bio-Oil per day, or almost two 60ml bottles, before exceeding the recommended daily maximum intake!
I hope that this helps to ease your mind if you, like me, have used topical retinyl palmitate for any stage of your pregnancy. Obviously it's not conclusive and personally, I do not intend to continue using Bio-Oil or any other topical preparation containing vitamin A until I speak to my doctor. However, researching this topic has helped me to put things into perspective. It's scary being a first time Mum, but all we can do is take on as much information as possible and try to make the best decision for ourselves and our bubs. Many women unknowingly do quite scary things before finding out they are pregnant and others continue to take risks knowingly. I hope you all have a lovely day xx