The pregnant body is amazing, powerful, and dynamic. The pregnant body adjusts to meet the needs of the growing baby even as the body’s nutritional needs change throughout the course of the pregnancy. Calcium is an essential nutrient whether you are pregnant or not. But, it’s important to remember that calcium is one of the key minerals that your body needs for a healthy pregnancy. It is especially useful for the formation of baby’s strong bones and teeth, and it’s also super beneficial for the mother’s growing and changing body.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pregnant and lactating women above the age of 18 should be consuming 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Pregnant and lactating women under the age of 18 should strive for an intake of about 1,300 mg per day. There can be side effects of both too little and too much calcium intake during pregnancy. So, it’s always a good idea to monitor your calcium intake. With that being said, today we are going to discuss the benefits of calcium for pregnant women. Plus, some good sources of calcium that are safe to eat and drink during pregnancy!
5 Benefits of Calcium For Pregnancy
Calcium is important for the formation of baby’s bones and teeth.
Calcium is one of the most important and essential building blocks of your baby’s bones and teeth. This is one reason calcium is absolutely essential for the baby’s overall proper growth and development. Proper calcium intake is linked to higher and healthier birth weights.
And, don’t forget that calcium is important for the mother’s health too! Research has found calcium deficiency during pregnancy can lead to loss of bone mass, higher bone turnover, and may even contribute to the development of osteoporosis later in life for the mother.
Calcium may help grow a healthy heart and nerves.
Calcium contributes to the healthy development of the baby’s bones and teeth. But, it may also play a super important role in the proper growth of the baby’s heart and nerves. Getting the proper amount of calcium is essential to the growth of the baby’s nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and circulatory system. And, calcium also plays a crucial role in our nervous system and nerve functioning.
Calcium encourages normal heart rhythm development.
While research related to calcium and heart health is still ongoing, we do know calcium plays a key role in developing and maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Each time your heart (or your baby’s heart) pumps, calcium enters your heart to contribute to the signals and processes that are happening. The calcium helps the muscles in your heart to contract and contributes to the electrical signals that tell it to keep on beating. Calcium is so important to the functioning of your heart that a common symptom of a calcium deficiency is an abnormal heart rate.
It may improve the baby’s blood clotting abilities.
Hypocalcemia is a condition in which the blood has too little calcium to function properly. Getting enough calcium during pregnancy is essential because, according to at least one review in the US National Library of Medicine, hypocalcemia can lead to preeclampsia and some fetal growth disorders. Calcium is also essential for proper blood coagulation (or clotting), membrane stability, intracellular signaling, and muscle movement.
Calcium reduces the risk of hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
Hypertension and preeclampsia are potentially dangerous conditions during pregnancy. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), hypertension can not only cause complications during pregnancy, but it can also lead to issues during and after delivery. One study in North India, on 524 pregnant women, showed women who were given a calcium supplement throughout pregnancy showed a 66.7% risk reduction in developing preeclampsia and hypertension.
Good Sources Of Calcium For Pregnancy
Milk & Cheese
Milk and cheese are fantastic sources of calcium and totally safe to eat and drink during pregnancy. There are some drinks you should avoid during pregnancy. But, drinking milk is totally fine! The USDA states that just one cup of 2% milk contains almost 300 mg of calcium. That is about ⅓ of your daily value (DV) right there! And who doesn’t love cheese? The USDA states that just one slice of either cheddar or mozzarella cheese contains over 200 mg of calcium. If you are lactose intolerant, don’t worry! There are plenty of other rich sources of calcium listed below.
Kale & Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like broccoli, collard greens, kale, and watercress are great sources of calcium and super easy to incorporate into any lunch or dinner meal. The US Department of Agriculture states that just one cup of cooked collard greens contains over 350 mg of calcium. And 1 cup of kale has over 50 mg of calcium. Dark leafy greens are also chock full of healthy vitamins and minerals and are one group of foods that can help you avoid swelling during pregnancy.
Almonds are delicious, nutritious, and a good source of calcium. They are just one of many healthy snack ideas for pregnant women. The USDA database reports that just one serving (31 g, or about 1/3 cup) of almonds contains 80 mg of calcium. Almonds, along with other nuts like cashews, are also a great source of protein, healthy fats, and other vitamins and minerals. Plus, they make a great on-the-go snack you can throw in a homemade trail mix or eat on their own.
Most recent research tells us full-fat dairy is beneficial for both fertility and during pregnancy. In fact, in a study of over 18,000 women, those who regularly consumed full-fat dairy products had a 66% lower risk of infertility related to ovulatory disorders.
Full-fat yogurt is a great choice both for preconception and pregnancy. Yogurt is a great source of calcium and one of many healthy breakfast ideas for pregnant women. The USDA states that just one cup of whole milk greek yogurt contains over 10% of your DV.
Salmon, Sardines, Shrimp
High-quality fish and shellfish like salmon, sardines, and shrimp are good sources of calcium. It is true, these fish and shellfish don’t contain as much calcium as some of the foods above. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 6-ounce salmon filet contains about 20 mg of calcium. But, these high-quality fish will help to supplement your calcium intake. Plus, they have tons of other benefits during pregnancy like omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, and more!
Calcium is Essential During Pregnancy.
Making sure you’re getting the right amount of calcium is important before, during, and even after pregnancy. Consuming too little calcium can lead to brittle and weak bones, a greater risk for injury, and even osteoporosis later in life. And, on the flip side, too much for too long, in particular from over-supplementation, can lead to blood clots, hardening of the arteries, and a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. There are tons of foods you can eat that are rich in calcium.
Remember, you can always speak to your healthcare team about additional supplementation, if necessary. For additional questions, feel free to drop a comment below! And don’t forget to download the Prenatal Nutrition Library app for free in your app store for easier access to tons of prenatal nutrition content.