Retinoic acid (RA) is a critical regulator of gene expression during embryonic development. In rodents, moderate maternal vitamin A deficiency leads to subtle morphogenetic defects and inactivation of RA pathway genes causes major disturbances of embryogenesis. In this study, we quantified RA in umbilical cord blood of 145 healthy full-term Caucasian infants from Montreal. Sixty seven percent of values were <10 nmol/L (84 were <0.07 nmol/L) and 33% had moderate or high levels. Variation in RA could not be explained by parallel variation in its precursor, retinol (ROL). However, we found that the (A) allele of the rs12591551 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the ALDH1A2 gene (ALDH1A2rs12591551(A)), occurring in 19% of newborns, was associated with 2.5-fold higher serum RA levels. ALDH1A2 encodes retinaldehyde dehydrogenase (RALDH) 2, which synthesizes RA in fetal tissues. We also found that homozygosity for the (A) allele of the rs12724719 SNP in the CRABP2 gene (CRABP2rs12724719(A/A)) was associated with 4.4-fold increase in umbilical cord serum RA. CRABP2 facilitates RA binding to its cognate receptor complex and transfer to the nucleus. We hypothesize that individual variation in RA pathway genes may account for subtle variations in RA-dependent human embryogenesis.