Calcium

Protecting your bones in pregnancy

Calcium is a very important nutrient that provides your baby with strong bones. During the third trimester, when your baby's bones develop and strengthen, the need for calcium is the greatest. Besides proper bone formation in your baby, adequate amounts of calcium also help preserve your bone strength.

 

If you aren't getting enough calcium in your diet, the calcium needed by your developing baby is drawn from your bones, possibly leading to osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis causes dramatic thinning of your bones, resulting in weak, brittle bones that can easily be broken. So, getting enough calcium while you're pregnant can reduce this risk. Another benefit of getting enough calcium during pregnancy is your reduced risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension (preeclampsia).

Choosing Calcium-Rich Foods

By the eighth week, your baby's bones and teeth are beginning to develop. You should double your calcium intake by eating foods such as low-fat cheese, enriched breads, low-fat milk and leafy green vegetables. You can also find calcium in Brazil nuts, but eat these in moderation due to their high fat content.

Experts suggest that women over 18 years of age get 1,000 mg of calcium each day, and younger women should take it 1,300 mg. This is roughly equal to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich produce every day, but serving size will depend on the type of food. The best sources of calcium include dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and pudding. Other sources of calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach), dried peas and beans, calcium-added orange juice, nuts, seeds, tofu and even seafood. For the most benefit, pair calcium sources with food high in vitamin D to allow your body to absorb the mineral much more efficiently.

Calcium Supplements

For some women, especially vegans and those with lactose intolerance, a calcium boost in the form of a supplement can seem like a good idea. However, since too much calcium can cause constipation and increase your risk of kidney stones, take a close look at your prenatal vitamins to make sure you don't overload your body.

An average prenatal vitamin will provide at least 150 mg to 200 mg of calcium, so take that into consideration when tallying your total daily consumption. If you do find that your body could use a little more to reach the recommended daily amount, you may want to opt for a calcium citrate supplement instead of calcium carbonate, which can aggravate heartburn.

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