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When you are pregnant, it is necessary that you take care of your body to support the life growing inside your womb. If your body does not get the required supply of vitamins and minerals, it might have an adverse impact on the development of the baby. Calcium is one nutrient which is very important for you and your unborn baby. Let’s look at the importance of calcium in pregnancy and discuss how to get the recommended amount of this nutrient.
How much Calcium do you Need?
Ideally, women need to consume about 1,000 mg of calcium daily before, during, and after pregnancy. The World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (part of the United Nations) recommend a dietary intake of 1,200 mg of calcium daily for pregnant women.
Calcium is a vital nutrient. Taking calcium during the first trimester helps in foetal growth and ensures transmission of nerve impulses, development of muscles and a strong heart, besides building stronger bones and teeth. Inadequate calcium intake could result in rickets or weak limbs and even lead to retarded growth.
Adequate intake of calcium during the second trimester may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, as the nutrient aids muscle contraction and helps in regulating blood pressure. Taking calcium in the second trimester may also prevent leg and muscle cramps, a common problem at this stage.
The need for calcium during third trimester increases as the baby’s skeleton is developing at a faster rate than before to prepare for delivery.
Health Benefits of Calcium for Pregnant Women
As mentioned above, calcium offers health benefits to both mother and child. Here are a few of the benefits which make calcium an important part of a pregnancy diet.
Benefits for the Mother
Calcium can reduce your risk of hypertension and pre-eclampsia, two common pregnancy complications. The deficiency of this nutrient can impact both you and your baby, leading to osteopenia, tremors, muscle cramping, tetanus, delayed foetal growth, low birth weight and poor foetal mineralisation. Calcium intake during pregnancy has a positive impact on reducing the risk of hypertension too.
Benefits for the baby
In pregnancy, the developing baby draws calcium from the mother to build strong bones and teeth. Eating calcium-rich food during pregnancy is vital because it helps develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting capabilities.
Sources of Calcium while during Pregnancy
Calcium is available in many food groups including fruits. Here is a list of foods you may choose if you are looking at increasing your calcium intake.
Milk and dairy products are a good source of calcium, as are calcium-fortified cereal, juice, canned fish, soy and bread. But not all the products are calcium-fortified, so make sure you check the label before opting for milk or dairy products. Some of the calcium rich foods for pregnancy include:
- Cottage cheese: One cup of cottage cheese (250 ml) contains up to 138 mg calcium
- Yoghurt: Yoghurt is high in calcium, and an eight-ounce serving of yoghurt (about 237 ml) can provide up to 450 mg of calcium
- Milk: A cup of milk (250 ml) contains 300 mg of calcium
- Almonds: Almonds have high calcium content. A quarter cup serving contains around 88 mg of calcium. Figs, dates, pistachios and walnuts are also rich in calcium
- Salmon: A 3-ounce can of fish like salmon contains about 180 mg of calcium
- Spinach: A cooked serving of spinach contains up to 120 mg calcium
Consider eating calcium rich fruits during pregnancy if you are lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy products. These include:
- Oranges: A 100 gm serving of oranges provides 40 mg of calcium
- Tangerines: A 100 gm serving of tangerines contains about 37 mg of calcium
- Kiwi: A 100 gm serving of kiwi contains about 34 mg of calcium
- Strawberries: A 100 gm serving of strawberries contains about 16 mg of calcium
Your body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. So, ensure that you also get adequate Vitamin D in your diet.
Can you Take Calcium Supplements during Pregnancy?
Taking calcium supplements during pregnancy is a subject of debate. Your doctor may prescribe a calcium supplement if he deems it necessary, but remember that your body’s calcium absorption capability is 500 mg at a time. Do not consume calcium supplements without consulting your doctor first as excessive calcium consumption can trigger adverse side effects for the body.
Calcium supplements are available in various forms and can be eaten as capsules, chews, liquids, powders or calcium tablets during pregnancy. The common sources of calcium supplements are carbonate and citrate, which are easily absorbed by the body.
Warning: Over Consumption of Calcium during Pregnancy
Calcium intake during pregnancy needs to be regulated because of its side effects. Consuming too much calcium may cause constipation, increase the risk of urinary stones, and cause infection in the urinary tract. It can also hamper the absorption of other essential micronutrients in your body. It is thus advisable to stick to the doses of supplements prescribed by the gynaecologist.
Consuming a calcium-rich diet during pregnancy is beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Maintain the intake of this nutrient even after pregnancy to ensure good health for yourself and the baby.