Pregnancy means you have to eat only food that is nutritious, food that is good for the body and for the baby. Your body will demand more nutrients during pregnancy, but what about calcium?
Calcium – the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear it is “bones”. What exactly does calcium do for the mother and the baby? Why is calcium needed during pregnancy, how can you get enough of it, how to supplement your diet if you’re not getting enough? Too many questions and no answers, yet. So let’s get started!
Calcium for pregnant woman: Reasons why it’s needed
Nutrients that the fetus requires for growth is obtained from the mother through the umbilical cord. Although during pregnancy, there is no need to eat as if you’re feeding two humans, there is a need to increase your intake of nutrients. Calcium is needed for the formation of fetal bones and teeth, so if you factor this into your daily requirements for calcium, you definitely need more calcium in comparison to when you aren’t pregnant.
Calcium for pregnancy: What if I don’t take in enough?
If you don’t get enough calcium, regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not, your bones will become brittle over time. Therefore, if you’re pregnant, there is a possibility that the calcium stored in your bones and teeth goes to the fetus and the calcium deficiency can cause your bones to become more brittle faster. In actual fact, when the level of calcium in blood falls to low levels (hypocalcemia), the calcium in bones and teeth “melt” and are absorbed by the fetus. As a result, the mother’s bone density drops and bones might become brittle.
Recommended amount of calcium during pregnancy
According to the WHO, the recommended calcium intake for pregnant women is 1.5-2.0 g of elemental calcium (“1 g of elemental calcium equals 2.5 g of calcium carbonate or 4 g of calcium citrate”) a day.1The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a different recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 1,000 mg (1.0 g) for calcium.2Although there are many different other recommended daily allowances, note that you should be taking in calcium at the same, if not similar, rate. If your daily intake of calcium is nowhere near these levels, it’s time to take action! Don’t wait until you have soft, brittle bones before you start regretting!
Sources of calcium for the pregnant woman
How much calcium does an expecting mom need every day? It’s best if you try to get calcium through your diet; the following list is what we recommend you eat to increase your calcium intake.
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt et cetera)
- Small fish
Jute mallow, Japanese mustard spinach
Sweet basil, beefsteak plant
Seaweed (hijiki, wakame et cetera)
Processed soy products (tofu, natto et cetera)
Kale, broccoli, cabbage
If you find it a bit of a hassle to have a “diet makeover”, you might want to make small changes to your current meal plan to ensure you’re getting more calcium. What you can do is to add basil leaves to your food: as a topping, it adds flavor to food; as a source of calcium, it gives you the extra nutrients your body needs. You might also want to throw in a glass of milk or two a week – dairy products have high calcium absorption rates. Even when you’re eating snacks, choose food that is high in calcium – don’t waste your calories on empty calories! There is, however, no need to eat food that you don’t like. Just choose what you’re able to stomach!
Feeling it in your bones – strong bones and a healthy pregnancy
Actively taking in calcium is a good thing, but taking too much isn’t going to do your body much good. If you take in too much calcium, your body might itch and you might feel nauseated, and you might just get hypercalcemia, a condition in which you have too much calcium in your blood. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL, maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects) of calcium is 2,500 mg a day, so try not to take in calcium levels anywhere near that.2Have a balanced diet and you’ll feel it in your bones – having stronger bones to support you physically throughout pregnancy!