Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for the growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy. Low amounts of maternal calcium can result in pregnancy and developmental complications in the fetus. While the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board does not recommend the need for more calcium during pregnancy, it is essential for pregnant women to make sure they are getting their full daily requirement. Talk with your physician about testing and the possible need for supplements if you believe you are calcium-deficient.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for the human body. It is necessary for bone growth and maintaining healthy bones; it also plays a role in blood clotting, the sending of nerve signals, muscle contractions, hormone release and the regulation of your heartbeat. Calcium can be found in a variety of dietary sources, including milk and dairy products, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach and collards, salmon, almonds, sunflower seed and dried beans. When you are pregnant, the calcium in your body supplies your developing fetus, aiding in fetal bone development. If your levels of calcium are low there is not enough to supply your fetus.
According to the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended daily allowance of calcium for women between the ages of 19 and 50 is 1,000 milligrams. This number does not change for pregnant or breastfeeding women, but it becomes even more important at these times to make sure you are getting your full 1,000 milligrams. If you are carrying multiple fetuses, such as twins or triplets, your calcium levels will need to be increased to make sure you have enough calcium in your body to supply your fetuses. Consult with your physician for the appropriate supplement amount. Calcium deficiency is common in the United States and, according to the Diet Channel, it is estimated that 44 to 87 percent of Americans are not getting enough calcium, which means developing fetuses are probably not getting enough calcium for optimal development.
Calcium and Pregnancy
A 2007 study published in the journal “Therapeutische Umschau” looked at the need for calcium supplementation during pregnancy. According to the report, a pregnant woman’s body provides between 50 and 330 milligrams of calcium to the fetus to support skeletal development. The study points out that most women following a Western diet only consume about 800 milligrams of calcium, which is short of the recommended amount. The study believes that it is necessary for women with low dietary intake of calcium to take calcium supplements during pregnancy to make sure they are receiving the 1,000-milligram recommended dose. A 2010 study published in “The Journal of Nutrition” found that calcium supplementation also reduced the risk of preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother experiences high blood pressure and protein in the urine and must deliver the baby early.
Calcium and the Fetus
According to a 2010 study published in “The Journal of Nutrition,” maternal calcium deficiency can play a role in cardiovascular development in the fetus and increase the risk of high blood pressure in the newborn. This study also linked maternal calcium deficiency to a risk of increased body fat percentage, elevated triglycerides and insulin resistance in children. A 2004 study published in “The Journal of Nutrition” showed that the level of maternal calcium affected the bone mineral density of the fetus and newborn. Mothers with low levels of calcium were given calcium supplements or placebos; those infants from the mothers who received the calcium supplement had a significantly higher bone mineral composition than those from mothers who received placebos.
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; Maternal Micronutrient Deficiency, Fetal Development and the Risk of Chronic Disease; Parul Christian and Christine P. Stewart; January 13, 2010
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; Nutrition Influences Bone Development from Infancy Through Toddler Years; Bonny Specker; March 2004
- “Therapeutische Umschau”; Calcium-Supplementation in Pregnancy – Is it a Must?; E. Beinder; May 2007
- MedlinePlus; Preeclampsia; September 2, 2009
- MedlinePlus; Calcium in Diet; February 14, 2011
- The Diet Channel; Calcium Deficiency: What You Should Know; Dena McDowell, MS, RD; October 25, 2006
- Birth: Minerals, Calcium