When you're pregnant, a lot of your body nutritional needs changes. Have you ever wonder how a baby has well formed head, body, limbs and fingers in a short span of 40 weeks? It is a well known fact that calcium helps form strong bones and this process actually begins in utero right when those tiny fingers are forming.
For the baby, calcium also helps with the growing a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities. If you don't get enough calcium in your diet when you're pregnant, your baby will draw it from your bones, which may impair your own health later on causing issues like osteoporosis.
For the mother, calcium supplementation in pregnancy has been associated with a reduced risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension (1)
How much calcium do you need in pregnancy: (2)
Women ages 19 to 50: 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day before, during, and after pregnancy
Women age 18 and younger: 1,300 mg a day before, during, and after pregnancy
Food with high calcium
If you are taking Calcium supplements/ Calcium as part of your prenatal supplements
Calcium supplements come in two forms: carbonate and citrate
Calcium carbonate is less expensive and works best if you take it with food.
Calcium citrate works just as well with food or on an empty stomach.
Breastfeeding needs more calcium, too. It is important that you continue calcium supplements while you're breastfeeding. Research shows you may lose 3% to 5% of your bone mass when you nurse because you lose some of your calcium through breast milk. Luckily, if you are careful to eat foods with calcium and take supplements as advised, you should regain that bone mass within 6 months after you stop breastfeeding.
1. Beinder E. [Calcium-supplementation in pregnancy--is it a must?]. Ther Umsch. 2007 May;64(5):243-7. Review. German. PubMed PMID: 17685081.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research