Most of us understand the importance of calcium and pregnancy, for bone health and to prevent osteoporosis.
For pregnant women, calcium is not only important for their own health, but also for the health of their unborn babies.
It is important for your baby to get the right amount of calcium for optimum fetal development.
Calcium deficiency in pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or premature birth.
If you are expecting a child you might be wondering: Am I getting enough calcium from my diet?
How much calcium is recommended during pregnancy?
Recommended calcium intake during pregnancy
Pregnant women need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day.
Interestingly, a women’s body is more efficient at producing calcium during pregnancy, so the recommended maternal calcium intake during pregnancy is the same as that for a non pregnant woman.
Insufficient maternal dietary calcium intake during pregnancy can lead to maternal bone loss and impaired infant development.
If you are not getting enough calcium from your diet alone, calcium supplementation might be required.
Calcium rich foods
The best way to get enough calcium during pregnancy is through calcium rich foods.
To get the recommended 1000 mg of calcium per day, some pregnant women might need to increase their dietary calcium intake.
Calcium rich foods to include in your diet during pregnancy are:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables.
You can also find food and drinks that have added calcium, such as calcium fortified cereal and calcium fortified orange juice.
Did you know you can actually help your body absorb calcium from food? To increase calcium absorption from food, your body also needs vitamin D.
For more information, refer to BellyBelly’s article Vitamin D During Pregnancy – 5 FAQs Answered.
Should pregnant women take calcium supplements?
Most prenatal vitamins contain varying amount of calcium. It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before taking a calcium supplement, as your current prenatal vitamin might be sufficient.
If you have a low dietary calcium intake, your doctor might discuss changing your dietary habits before recommending dietary supplements.
Studies on calcium and pregnancy
Studies on low calcium intake during pregnancy found that high dose calcium supplementation in early pregnancy helps women prevent hypertensive disorders and preeclampsia.
A randomised controlled trial among women with high risk of preeclampsia found that maternal calcium supplementation reduced the severity, maternal morbidity and infant mortality from eclampsia.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency in pregnancy
If you are not getting enough calcium during pregnancy, or if you are calcium deficient, you might experience any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive headaches
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers
- Muscle and leg cramps
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a medical emergency in pregnancy, which can lead to premature birth.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Preeclampsia | Signs, Symptoms And Causes.
What trimester is calcium most important?
A women’s need for calcium increases the most during the third trimester of pregnancy, when the baby’s bones are developing rapidly.
Studies measuring fetal calcium levels suggest that at 20 weeks gestation, calcium is transferred from the mother to the baby at a rate of 50 mg.
By 35 weeks of gestation, the rate at which calcium is transferred from mother to baby increases to 330mg a day.
You can read more about your baby’s development in the third trimester of pregnancy in BellyBelly’s article 29 Weeks Pregnant | Belly, Baby Position And Symptoms.
Can you have too much calcium in pregnancy?
At this stage of the article, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to have too much calcium during pregnancy.
Too much calcium in pregnancy can also be harmful to your health.
Excessive calcium intake during pregnancy can prevent absorption of other important vitamins and minerals and lead to health problems, such as kidney stones.
Kidney stones are deposits of minerals that stick together in concentrated urine. Although they do not usually cause serious health concerns, they can cause severe abdominal pain and nausea.
Throughout the duration of your pregnancy, it is important to attend any antenatal appointments and health checks, as advised by your doctor or pregnancy care team.
This helps to make sure that any deficiencies or other health conditions are detected and treated as early as possible.