The Role of Calcium in Pregnancy

"Drink your milk" is one of those things pregnant women have been told for generations by their mothers, doctors, and friends. There was very sound information behind that advice, because milk is an excellent source of calcium, a mineral we all know is essential for healthy bones and teeth. 

90% of American women don't get the recommended daily amount of calcium.  In fact, most get less than half.  Maybe because of the concern about calories o r perhaps some of us have just outgrown our taste for milk.  Whatever the reason, the majority of women aren't getting enough calcium for their own bones, let alone a developing baby's bones.  So most women are calcium-deficient at the time they conceive.

If you are pregnant or planning to be, you want to give your baby the best and healthiest start in life that you possibly can. In order to do that, you must take special care of yourself and your diet even before you are pregnant.  And your daily prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement probably doesn't give you enough calcium most of which only contain about 200 to 300 mg of calcium - about 1,000 mg less than you and your baby need every day. So check the label on your bottle, or talk to your doctor. You'll want to make sure that you are getting enough calcium every day through natural food sources and supplements.

Breastfeeding demands extra calcium requiring 1,200 mg of calcium a day after a baby is born. During pregnancy, the mother's body will try to store calcium to produce breast milk.  When the baby is nursing it is a time of high calcium demand, and to produce the most nutritious milk, you'll need a highly nutritious diet.  Learn what it takes to get the calcium you need when you're pregnant and nursing.  Low-fat or skim milk is the best, and low calorie, source of calcium.  Other good sources are cottage cheese and yogurt, greens such as collard, kale, and turnip, as well as salmon and sardines.  One glass of milk provides about 300 mg of calcium. 

Nature helps provide for the new baby's development by taking calcium from the mother's body, right from her bones, if necessary. But you can ensure that there is enough calcium to go around if you increase your intake, even before you are pregnant, and every day while you are.  The National Institute of Health recommends that adult, non-pregnant women should get 1,000 mg of calcium a day.  During pregnancy, your basic calcium requirement goes up to 1,200 mg a day. 

Don't lose your daily calcium habit just because you're no longer pregnant or nursing. Remember, your normal daily requirement is 1,000 mg a day. Until about the time of your late 20s, you are still building new bone. During that time, and especially after that, you need the calcium for maintaining that bone strength and preventing osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that strikes older women.

There have been studies showing that increased calcium during pregnancy can help prevent certain serious complications in childbirth.  Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who took about 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg of extra calcium every day while they were pregnant had a significantly lower risk of preeclampsia, a leading cause of premature birth. The extra calcium maintained normal blood pressure in pregnancy, which can be associated with preeclampsia, possibly resulting in serious consequences for both mother and child.

When you're pregnant, or trying to be, you have a lot on your mind. You want to make sure you've got everything covered for you and your baby.  Calcium is proving to be more important in this picture than medical science ever realized. And it is so simple and inexpensive to get enough calcium.  Talk to your doctor about how much calcium you need.

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