Calcium Intake During Pregnancy

Maintaining proper nutrition ensures healthy body for mothers as well as the infant. Vitamin and mineral insufficiency during pregnancy can cause developmental issues for the unborn infant. Calcium is one of the integral nutrient mothers should incorporate in their daily diet. However, calcium should be taken in appropriate or recommended amount to guarantee safety.

Importance of Calcium Intake During Pregnancy

Studies show that calcium contributes in regulating muscular function, particularly relaxation and contraction.  Good amount of calcium in the body also improves heart function regulation. Calcium is also linked with improving nervous system message transmission or synaptic processes and enzyme function.

Fetal development also needs calcium because of its importance in developing bones, teeth, muscles and nerves. Furthermore, muscular, circulatory and nervous system functions also benefit from sufficient amount of calcium during this stage.

Required Amount of Calcium Intake During Pregnancy

Just like other nutrients, a pregnant woman must maintain healthy amounts of calcium intake during pregnancy. Expecting mothers older than 18 years old should take 1,000 mg of calcium daily before, during and post-pregnancy. Mothers younger than 18 years old should take more at 1,300 mg daily. Mothers should continue taking in calcium after pregnancy and nursing. This mineral will prevent bone-related issues like osteoporosis, which is common among women, and general bone weakness.

According to studies, many American women do not obtain appropriate calcium supply despite its importance. Women are advised to take four dairy product servings daily together with other calcium-rich food daily.

Great Sources of Calcium Intake During Pregnancy

Good calcium sources helping you maintain the calcium intake during pregnancy include the following:

1. Almonds

image001Nuts, especially almonds have good calcium content-- around 88 mg per quarter cup serving. It is also delicious and can be taken as a snack or in other prepared forms. Aside from calcium, almonds contain other nutrients that pregnant women will find beneficial like vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. Its mono-unsaturated fats are heart-friendly and intake will not be a problem.

2. Salmon

image002Fish like salmon offers 180 mg of calcium per 3-ounce can. In addition to calcium, salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is beneficial in boosting brain development. Salmon can be prepared as the main meal or a salad. Women who do not like its fishy taste can try salmon cakes to get its calcium and omega-3 contents.

3. Spinach

image003Spinach as part of the green leafy vegetable groups has 120 mg calcium per cup cooked serving. Women following a dairy-free diet or those who are lactose intolerant find spinach as the best calcium source. It also has vital prenatal nutrients like folate, iron and beta carotene. Various spinach recipes are available to give the calcium that you need.

4. Yogurt

image004A member of the dairy family, an 8-ounce yogurt can have up to 450 mg of calcium depending on the brand regardless if it is flavored or plain. Just like other good calcium sources, yogurt also has other nutrients like probiotics that increase good bacteria in your digestive system and boost the immune system. Look for Lactobacillus bulgaricus and the National Yogurt Association’s “Live and Active Cultures” seal to ensure good bacteria content.

5. Milk

image005This dairy product contains 300 mg of calcium per cup on the average regardless of their types. Four cups of milk a day will complete daily calcium requirement. Mothers who are not fond of drinking milk in its usual liquid form can incorporate the fluid with other meals like baked products, sauces, soups and other recipes.

Watch a video to learn how much you need calcium intake during pregnancy and how to get this nutrient:

Is Calcium Supplement Necessary?

Since calcium is essential for pregnant women, this brings the question whether supplements are necessary to maintain sufficient supply. Prenatal vitamins prescribed for pregnant women in general only has 150 to 200 mg calcium. A separate calcium supplement may be taken in, but remember that the body’s calcium absorption capability at a time is 500 mg. It is advisable to take in supplements in smaller doses a day, which means calcium intake may be done several times a day.

Calcium supplements are sold in different forms. Common choices available are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, which is easily absorbed when taken in. Calcium carbonate has the most amount of calcium, but digestion requires extra gastric acid, making meal times the ideal time to take in the supplement. Calcium citrate does not require as much acid and can be taken in between meal. This option is also ideal for those prescribed with heartburn medication for acid control.

Choose Calcium Supplement Carefully

In finding a calcium supplement, look for a brand with “USP” on the label. This means the product contains sufficient calcium and dissolves easily in the digestive system. Look for supplements that are lead-free and avoid those with bone meal, coral or dolomite content as they can be harmful to the fetus. Finally, be sure to take in sufficient amounts of vitamin D to aid calcium absorption.

Note the Possible Side Effects

Calcium intake during pregnancy should also be controlled because of its side effects. Common effects include constipation, low zinc and iron absorption, and increased risk of kidney stones. Take note of the calcium amount taken from food, water and supplements. Tap water only has around 135 mg of calcium at the maximum, while bottled water has around 208 mg per liter on the average. Purified water, however, has trace amounts of calcium unlike the first two fluids.