A Look At The Role Calcium Plays In Pregnancy Nutrition

You know you need calcium -- but why? Here's a look at the role calcium plays in pregnancy nutrition.
Calcium for pregnant women
One of the main jobs of calcium is to aid in the growth, development and maintenance of bones and teeth. As an expectant mom, you must meet both your own requirements for bone and tooth health, and also provide for bone formation and development in your baby.

For pregnant women who get low amounts of calcium in their diet, calcium supplementation averaging 1,300 milligrams (mg) a day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can increase the bone mineral content of the baby by about 15 percent, says a study in the October 1999 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. However, in women with adequate dietary calcium intake, calcium supplements are unlikely to result in major improvement in how your baby mineralizes it into his or her bones.

Most pregnant women need to add calcium-rich foods to the diet. Milk, yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, ice milk and cheeses are calcium-rich foods. Non-fat and low-fat dairy products supply equal amounts of calcium with fewer calories than higher-fat counterparts. Green leafy vegetables, tofu and canned salmon (bones included) are other good sources of calcium. Calcium-fortified foods, such as some orange juices and breakfast cereals, also provide significant amounts of calcium, especially for women who do not eat dairy products. During pregnancy, you should consume at least four servings of calcium-rich foods a day, or the equivalent of one quart of milk.

Nutritionist Martha Belury, PhD, RD, notes, "In addition to being sure to incorporating calcium-rich foods into your daily eating plan, calcium-rich non-fat dried milk may be added to baked goods, smoothies, and soups to meet calcium needs." Further, many products now on the market contain fortification with calcium, including juices, soy milk and bread products.

Although pregnant women may consume more dairy products, they often do not meet their calcium needs through food sources alone. The NAS/IOM recommends calcium supplementation for pregnant women who consume only one serving of calcium-rich food per day. Ask your caregiver if you need calcium supplements, or if enough of this mineral is already included in your prenatal vitamin. And one tip: Calcium supplements are utilized best when taken at mealtime.PregnancyAndBaby.com


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