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Calcium Needs in Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |21, November 2013


Pregnant women know they need calcium in their diet; but does it matter what source it comes from? Does it need to be dairy? What about calcium supplements? How do I know I'm getting enough and what could happen if I'm deficient?

Do you need to take calcium supplements during pregnancy?

If your diet is insufficient in calcium, yes, which may be especially true if you are lactose-intolerant. Should be fall into either or both categories, really punch up your diet with non-dairy calcium-rich foods such as listed above, try lactose free milk products and talk to your doctor about calcium supplements. You need enough calcium but not too much, so it's important to discuss your options with a nutritionist or your physician.

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance of calcium for pregnant women is 1000 milligrams a day, but for pregnant teens the amount needed is 1300 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • A cup of skim milk contains 299 milligrams of calcium
  • A cup of low fat yogurt contains 258 milligrams
  • A half-cup of spinach contains 122 milligrams

What are the Risks of Not Getting Enough Calcium in Your Diet While Pregnant?

You need calcium to develop strong teeth and bones, so blood will clot normally, muscles and nerves function properly, and your heart works as it should.

When you are pregnant, your baby needs calcium especially to form the spine. The baby will get what is needed from your diet or if your diet is insufficient, from your bones. This can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. This disease leads to weak, brittle bones and frequent fractures.

The greatest demand of the fetus for calcium is during the second and third trimesters.

If you don't take in enough calcium, you are at risk for substantial pregnancy complications including preeclampsia and prematurity associated with hypertension. If you have less calcium than required, you may also be at risk for excessive bone loss.

According to American Bone Health, women in child-bearing years only get 50 to 75 percent of the calcium they need. African American women get about 500 milligrams a day, while Caucasian women get about 650 milligrams on average each day.

According to the American Bone Health, research has shown that women receiving less calcium than needed would greatly reduce their risk of preeclampsia by taking calcium supplements. Also, women who are deficient in calcium and take a supplement can reduce their risk of premature birth.

How To More Calcium In Your Diet

The best sources of calcium are from food and dairy products rather than supplements. Of course, as you can imagine, the best and easiest sources are from dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cream soups and pudding.
Taking in sufficient Vitamin D will help your body use the calcium properly. You get Vitamin D from sunlight, fortified milk as well as from fish and eggs.

Other food sources rich in calcium include orange juice fortified with calcium, spinach, calcium-fortified cereal, salmon, dried peas and beans, seafood, broccoli, and greens.

  • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables.
  • Eat fish twice a week.
  • Drink calcium-fortified orange or other juice and eat calcium-fortified cereal daily.
  • Have a snack of pudding or yogurt with granola.
  • Sneak some dairy into your life easily by adding powdered milk to recipes, soups, sauces and such.
  • Eat low fat ice cream as a treat.
  • Have a grilled cheese sandwich with lunch.
  • Snack on slices of cheese with whole grain crackers.
  • Find love for spinach by either tearing up fresh spinach in your salad, or baking some into your pasta dishes.

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