Calcium is an important nutrient during pregnancy, and if you’re not getting enough from your diet, you may need a supplement. In this blog, we’ll discuss calcium supplements during pregnancy: how to know whether or not you need one, which type to take and what dose.
Calcium during pregnancy
Calcium is an essential nutrient during pregnancy. Your baby needs calcium to grow strong bones and teeth, to grow a healthy heart, nerves and muscles, and to develop a normal heart rhythm and blood clotting abilities.
Although your calcium requirements don’t increase during pregnancy, they stay at your normal levels depending upon your age… so 1300 milligrams per day for women under the age of 18, and 1000 milligrams per day for the rest of us, many women that I see don’t get enough calcium in their diet.
In addition to meeting the needs of your developing baby, calcium is important to prevent a condition called pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy condition characterised by high blood pressure. It can be very dangerous for you or your baby. Women with low calcium intakes of less than 600 milligrams per day have an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia, so it’s another reason why you may need to double check your calcium intake.
There’s one more reason too… research has found a relationship between low calcium levels and increased frequency and intensity of muscle cramps during pregnancy.
Calcium supplements during pregnancy
Before I recommend the best type of calcium supplements to look for, I want to make it clear to you that you are FAR better off meeting your calcium requirements through food if you can.
Calcium supplements can be contaminated with lead. One report from the U.S. identified that of eight of 23 nationally available calcium carbonate products contained small amounts of lead. Now, we are talking about tiny amounts, but food is a safer option. More practically, the calcium from food is also absorbed more easily than the calcium from supplements. The best sources of dietary calcium are the small, edible bones found in fish such as sardines, dairy products and seeds such as sesame seeds. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough, I’d recommend that you keep a food diary for a couple of days and add up your calcium intake, or make an appointment to see a prenatal dietitian.
Now, if you do need a calcium supplement, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure that you don’t take more than 500 milligrams of calcium at one time as large doses won’t be absorbed
- Don’t take calcium supplements at the same time as your pregnancy multivitamin as it can impact the absorption of other nutrients such as iron
- Calcium citrate is the best type of calcium supplement as it is more easily absorbed, but it is more expensive
- If you have calcium carbonate supplements, make sure that you take them with food
- Absorption from calcium-fortified beverages varies and is generally less than calcium absorbed from milk
If you have any further questions, feel free to post in the comments box below. And, if you haven’t yet downloaded my free pregnancy meal plan, you can do so by going to www.melaniemcgrice.com/pregnancy.
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