Is Calcium your friend?

August 30, 2016 


7 Calcium(19th Feb)

Facts to know:
Our body can’t make Calcium, so we need to get it from food or supplements. Calcium is necessary for maintenance of healthy pregnancy and better development of the newborn. The bone development of the baby in the womb needs Calcium from the mother’s body. The Calcium available from food is insufficient to meet this demand, and thus more Calcium needs to be given from outside. It has been estimated that daily Calcium requirement increases to 1200 mg during pregnancy.
If the mother does not have adequate dietary Calcium before conceiving and during the pregnancy, significant maternal bone density could be lost, possibly putting her at risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Breast feeding mother over a three-month period of lactation, lose approximately 3% of her body’s Calcium stores. The daily transfer of Calcium from the mother to her baby during lactation ranges from 250 mg to 300 mg and has been observed to be as high as 1,000 mg/day.
80% of this Calcium amount is acquired during the 3rd trimester while the baby’s skeleton is rapidly developing. Low Calcium intake affects baby’s skeletal bone development.

Why do I need to add Calcium in my pregnancy nutrition friend list?

Calcium is a nutrient needed for the overall health. Almost all cells in our body use Calcium in some or the other way. Calcium helps in the following function:

  • Building strong teeth & bones
  • Allows blood to clot normally
  • Enzyme and Hormone functioning
  • Helps muscles and nerves to function properly and the heart to beat normally

Most of the Calcium in our body is stored inside the bones, which provide support for normal functioning of the body. When blood Calcium levels are low, the body utilizes Calcium stored in the bones. As we age, we absorb less and less Calcium from our diet, causing our bodies to take more and more Calcium from our bones.
The total amount of Calcium in blood decreases gradually throughout pregnancy, as intestinal absorption of Calcium is doubled from as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, additional Calcium consumption should be encouraged especially, during pregnancy and lactation.
The average Calcium demand of a developing baby in a womb is 30 g by the end of pregnancy. 80% of this Calcium amount is acquired during the 3rd trimester while the baby’s skeleton is rapidly developing. The average Calcium transfer to the baby during pregnancy is 50 mg/day during the 2nd trimester and 250 mg/day during the 3rd trimester.
During lactation, Calcium concentration is independent of mother’s dietary Calcium intake. The daily transfer of Calcium from the mother to her baby during lactation ranges from 250 mg to 300 mg and has been observed to be as high as 1,000 mg/day. With a summation of this transfer, the mother could lose 25 to 30 g of Calcium over a three-month period of lactation, representing approximately 3% of her body’s Calcium stores.
If the mother does not have adequate dietary Calcium before conceiving and during the pregnancy, significant maternal bone density could be lost, possibly putting her at risk for osteoporosis later in life. Additionally, low Calcium intakes could lead to delay of the fetal skeleton development and low Calcium concentrations in breast milk

What if I don’t be a friend to Calcium during pregnancy?

Growing baby needs a considerable amount of Calcium to develop. If we do not consume enough Calcium to sustain the needs of developing baby, our body will take Calcium from our bones, decreasing our bone mass and putting us at risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis initiates dramatic thinning of the bone, resulting in weak, brittle bones that can easily be broken.
Pregnancy is a critical time for a woman to consume more Calcium. Even if no problems develop during pregnancy, an inadequate supply of Calcium at this time can diminish bone strength and increase risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Low Calcium intake during pregnancy also shows effect on the unborn baby and is associated with:

  • Reduced bone mineral content in newborns
  • Decreased fetal femur bone length
  • Effect on overall skeletal bone development

Both pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in, and place extra demands on, women’s bodies. Some of these may affect our bones too though most women may not experience bone problems during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If our bones are affected during these times, the problem can be corrected easily.
Nevertheless, taking care of our bone health is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding, for the good health of both the mother and the baby.

Who needs to be a closer friend to Calcium during pregnancy?

Women with following medical conditions should consider incorporating Calcium supplementation during pregnancy:

  • Mother-to-be with chronic autoimmune disorders
  • Pregnant women with genetic Osteoporosis
  • Women on low-molecular-weight-heparin therapy during pregnancy
  • Lactose intolerant women or women who prefer to skip milk and milk products due to personal preference
  • Mothers carrying twins, as they have higher bone density loss than mothers carrying a single fetus

Recommended dietary allowance for Indian pregnant women is 1200 mg/d Calcium in addition to dietary intake for reducing risk in pregnancy.
Calcium supplementation in pregnancy can help:

  • Reduce the risk of pregnancy –induced hypertension in persons with low Calcium intake and also prevent risk of hypertension in next generation
  • Protect against low-birth weight in newborns

Recommended amount of Calcium intake during pregnancy and lactation helps in healthy outcome both for mother and child. Before starting supplementation, it is recommended to consult your doctor, as a need of Calcium type and intake dose vary from person to person.

Where can you look for friendly Calcium?

A good source of Calcium includes:

  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens, and bok choy (Chinese cabbage)
  • Tofu, soya and corn tortillas
  • Foods fortified with Calcium, such as orange juice, cereals, and bread
  • Sesame seeds, dried figs, dried apricots, almonds, Brazil nuts
  • Canned sardines (Pawade) and salmon (Ravas) with bones

In addition, your doctor probably will prescribe a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consult your doctor before starting any kind of Calcium supplementation, as he would be the best person to advice you for the same.