Calcium is essential to consume whether you are pregnant or not, but for pregnant women, it's especially crucial. If you do not consume an adequate amount of calcium for your growing baby, your body will use up its own stores which may put you at high risk for bone loss during pregnancy and increase your risk of osteoporosis in the future.
Why is calcium important during pregnancy?
Calcium helps strengthen your baby's fast-growing bones and teeth and encourages muscles, nerves, and heart development as well. And it is still as important as always for your teeth and bones. It is especially important to consume calcium during the third trimester when your baby is growing rapidly and in need of calcium greatly.
Not getting enough calcium during pregnancy makes you more prone to osteoporosis, a condition that causes brittle bones. Calcium can also reduce your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia (a blood pressure disorder that happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy, during labour or postpartum). While many women recover lost bone mass after pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is still a good idea to take calcium when you're pregnant.
How much calcium do pregnant women need?
All women need the same amount of calcium whether they are pregnant, breastfeeding or neither of these. However, the amount of calcium that women need varies by age:
- Women ages 19 to 50: 1000 milligrams per day
- Women 18 and below: 1300 milligrams per day
Basically, you should aim for four servings of calcium-rich foods daily. Since most prenatal vitamins do not contain enough of the recommended amount of calcium per day, you can simply add up by taking any calcium-rich food. For instance, scoop up a cup of plain yogurt during breakfast or sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on your pasta at dinner and you're already more than halfway to your daily dose!
Best foods with calcium during pregnancy
Milk and other dairy products are the top sources of calcium and so are canned fish and calcium-fortified cereals, juice, soy and rice beverages, and bread. But not all brands are fortified, hence check the labels.
Or if you are lactose-intolerant or do not consume dairy products, you can also consider these as your source of calcium:
- Tofu: 253 mg per ½ cup
- Canned salmon: 181 mg per 3 ounces
- Chia seeds: 179 mg per 1 ounce
- Bok choy: 160 mg per 1 cup
- Turnip greens: 148 mg per 1 cup
- Black-eyed peas: 106 mg per ½ cup
- Kale: 55 mg per 1 cup
- Broccoli: 21 mg per ½ cup
And to process calcium, your body needs vitamin D, so do take up on foods that are rich in vitamin D such as salmon, tuna, eggs, and mushrooms. Your body also produces vitamin D in response to sunlight, so spending a few minutes under the sun every day (don't skip SPF!) can help boost your levels.
A healthy, well-balanced diet and good prenatal vitamins are sufficient to supply all your calcium needs during your pregnancy. But if you think it may not be enough for you, do check out our maternal milk here.