Is it Safe to Take Calcium Supplements When Pregnant?

Choice of vitamins
Pregnant woman holding glass of milk and pill bottle (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

While you are pregnant, you may begin rethinking every aspect of your diet, including your calcium intake. Obstetricians often disagree on whether you need a calcium supplement during pregnancy. Always consult your obstetrician before you start taking any nutritional supplement while you are pregnant.

The Role of Calcium

Calcium plays a crucial role during pregnancy in helping to build strong bones for your baby as well as maintaining your own bone and dental health. However, you may not need to take a calcium supplement during pregnancy, according to Carol Jean Lammi-Keefe, Ph.D., R.D., because during pregnancy you absorb calcium more efficiently. Other researchers, such as Christopher Duggan, author of "Nutrition in pediatrics" disagree, stating that calcium supplements may prevent eclampia and other health problems in high-risk populations.

Calcium Supplement Safety

Although most women need more calcium during pregnancy because they are not ingesting enough from their diets, it is possible to take in too much calcium. Taking high doses of calcium can lead to milk-alkali syndrome, a condition that affects the kidneys and can cause kidney stones or kidney failure. This condition can occur at varying levels of calcium intake, but doses over 1,500 milligrams a day can lead to milk-alkali syndrome over time. Consult your obstetrician before you add a calcium supplement to your diet.

Calcium-Rich Foods

The best way to make sure that your level of calcium is healthy is to eat a balanced diet that contains a number of calcium-rich foods. Skim milk, yogurt, cheese, spinach and other leafy greens, as well as salmon and sardines all contain high levels of calcium. Just one serving of yogurt can contain 415 mg of calcium, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

When to Consult Your Obstetrician

Many women do not get enough calcium in their diets. The average woman gets 797 milligrams of calcium per day, which is 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams per day, according to Lammi-Keefe. If you are not consuming dairy or other calcium-rich foods on a regular basis, consult your obstetrician. She may recommend a calcium supplement. If she does, follow her instructions exactly to make sure that you are taking the correct amount of calcium each day.

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