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.
Menstrual cramps, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea is thought to affect about 50% of the women. Doctors tend to deal with it by either dismissing the pain as a psychological problem or prescribing painkillers. Today researchers have come a long way toward a better understanding of menstrual cramps.
There are 2 types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea: Dysmenorrhea not caused by any physical abnormality of reproductive organs. Characterised by sharp, spasmodic pains in your lower abdomen OR dull ache in your lower back at the beginning of your period, or a day or two earlier, and it lasts two to three days.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea: Dysmenorrhea marked by pelvic and lower-back pain in which the pain is a symptom of another disease or condition that may require treatment such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, and adenomyosis.
Main cause of dysmenorrhea:
- Dysmenorrhea happens when your uterus contracts to push out the menstrual blood. Imbalances between the hormones progesterone and estrogen worsen menstrual cramping. Hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions and higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps (1).
- Warm bath or lying down with a heating pad or hot-water bottle on your lower abdomen
- Exercise, take a walk around the block or a few sit-ups will stimulate your muscles to release feel-good endorphins
- Birth control or estrogen pills to decrease your body's production of prostaglandin.
- Calcium 1000mg daily has been found to reduce both premenstrual and menstrual symptom scores (2). In fact high intake of calcium and Vitamin D may reduce risk of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (3).
- According to Christiane Northrup, M.D in her book 'Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing', she suggested getting plenty of essential fatty acids (salmon, flaxseed oil etc); take extra magnesium and a multivitamin-and-mineral supplement; take extra vitamin E during your menstrual cycles; eliminate trans-fatty acids from your diet; cut down on stress and consider yoga or massage.
1. Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/basics/causes/con-20025447
2. Thys-Jacobs S, Ceccarelli S, Bierman A, Weisman H, Cohen MA, Alvir J. Calcium supplementation in premenstrual syndrome: a randomized crossover trial. J Gen Intern Med. 1989 May-Jun;4(3):183-9. PubMed PMID: 2656936.
3. Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Jun 13;165(11):1246-52. PubMed PMID: 15956003.
I am back, after a long break. I have been extremely busy with sorting out other things in my life AND being part of a 12-week fitness challenge. Life has definitely not been easy. And...I am back to my obsession about Vitamin D. Found this particular study to be quite interesting. A longitudinal study published in Lancet in 2006 found that maternal Vitamin D status was associated with reduced whole-body and lumbar-spine bone-mineral content (BMC) in children that persists to age 9 years (1).
The study followed 198 children born in 1991-1992 in UK up to 9 years of age and results show that maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and placental calcium transfer, as indicated by concentrations of umbilical-venous calcium, are significantly correlated with bone-mineral accrual at 9 years of age. The researchers also postulated that maternal vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy leads to an impairment of placental calcium transport. It is known that the fetus accumulates about 30 g of calcium from the mother in utero, and 80% of this transfer occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Furthermore, your baby's weight at 1 year predicts bone mass at later age (2). So do you all mothers-to-be out there understand the importance of Vitamin D in pregnancy?
1: Javaid MK, Crozier SR, Harvey NC, Gale CR, Dennison EM, Boucher BJ, Arden NK, Godfrey KM, Cooper C; Princess Anne Hospital Study Group. Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: a longitudinal study. Lancet. 2006 Jan 7;367(9504):36-43. Erratum in: Lancet. 2006 May 6;367(9521):1486.
2. Cooper C, Cawley M, Bhalla A, et al. Childhood growth, physical activity, and peak bone mass in women. J Bone Miner Res 1995; 10: 940–47
The inability to lose weight -- a rather frustrating issue -- has been linked to a lack of calcium. Researchers first observed this “antiobesity effect” accidentally during a study in the 1980s that investigated the antihypertensive effect of dairy products in obese African American men (1). Increasing dietary calcium from ≈400 to ≈1000 mg/d through the consumption of 2 cups (≈437 mL) of yogurt daily for 1 year produced expected decreases in blood pressure that was accompanied by an unexpected 4.9kg reduction in body fat
According to animal and human studies, the calcium stored in fat cells helps regulate the processing and storage of fat in the body. Fat cells that contain the most calcium actually burn more fat, leading to weight loss.
A study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2002 summarized data from 9 studies (including 3 controlled trials and 6 observational studies) of calcium intake in which body weight could be assessed as a secondary outcome (2). Overall, increases in calcium intake were consistently associated with reduced indexes of adiposity (body weight, body fat, and weight gain); each 300mg increase in daily calcium intake is associated with a 2.5-3kg lower weight in adults and a 1kg less body fat in children. Consequently, they suggested that a 600mg/d increase in calcium intake (2 standard dairy servings) could reduce the risk of overweight by as much as 70%.
Of course, you can’t simply add calcium on to a high-calorie diet and expect weight loss. But if you have trouble shedding pounds, extra calcium-rich foods in addition to your lower calorie diet could be of great benefit. In fact, studies have shown calcium supplementation could give an edge on weight loss especially in women. University of Washington researchers reviewed a decade's worth of data on 5,341 women ages 53 to 57. Increasing calcium intake, in the form of calcium supplements, may be beneficial for weight maintenance, especially in women during midlife. Women currently taking a calcium supplement dose of >500 mg/day had significantly lower 10-year weight gain than non-users.
Consider Calcium supplements coupled with Vitamin D for optimal health!
1. Zemel MB, Shi H, Greer B, DiRienzo D, Zemel PC. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium. FASEB J 2000;14:1132–8.
2: Heaney RP, Davies KM, Barger-Lux MJ. Calcium and weight: clinical studies. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Apr;21(2):152S-155S. Review. PubMed PMID: 11999544.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research