You have probably noticed your gynecologists, your family doctor, or your pharmacist recommending calcium supplements during pregnancy, especially to women who have a low dietary intake of calcium-rich foods. Pregnancy increases nutritional requirements and several maternal alterations occur to meet this demand. Anatomical, physiological, and biochemical changes occur to nurture and accommodate the developing fetus, prepare the body for labor and delivery, and to meet the increased metabolic needs.
WHY USE CALCIUM DURING PREGNANCY
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body whose major role is to build and maintain healthy bones. Alongside calcium vitamin D is necessary to help in the absorption of calcium. If you are not getting enough dietary calcium or vitamin d3 when pregnant then the fetus will draw from your bones which increases the loss of bone mass leading to bone weakness and porosis. Some women experience teeth weakness, teeth infections, or tooth loss during pregnancy which is also due to low calcium.
Calcium also plays a major role in muscle movement by regulating muscle contraction and relaxation. The nerves stimulate the calcium ion channel and cause an influx of calcium which then helps muscle protein (troponin ) in the process of contraction. When calcium is being pumped out then the muscle relaxes. During pregnancy, women are likely to experience muscle cramping which can be reduced and prevented by using calcium supplements with vitamins D.It also reduces fatigue and sluggishness.
For cardiovascular function, calcium maintains the action of the heart muscle. It also relaxes the smooth muscles of the blood vessels (arteries and veins). Due to this function calcium reduces the chances of getting pregnancy-induced hypertension. It also helps prevent pre-eclampsia (which is high blood pressure with proteinuria and edema in pregnancy starting from 20 weeks of gestation period which can change from mild to severe). it also prevents pre-term birth and lowers the risks of complications during birth related to high blood pressure, especially for women with low dietary calcium. Also, it maintains a normal heart rhythm and blood clotting abilities.
Recommended use of calcium supplements.
It is recommended before pregnancy and early pregnancy (1st trimester) to take high doses of 1g to 1.5g of calcium supplements with or without a combination of vitamin d3 of 400iu to 5000iu in pregnant women who have a low dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D.
From the second trimester, it’s recommended to take from 400mg to 1g of calcium with or without vitamin d3 because maternal serum levels of calcium are maintained during pregnancy and fetal needs are met by increased intestinal absorption which doubles from 12 weeks gestation (2nd trimester).
Fetal demand for calcium increases in the third trimester but early maternal absorption increase storage. It is recommended to give small frequent milligrams of calcium that is 400-800mg daily.
It is best to take supplements with meals to increase their absorption.
Please remember it is best to obtain sufficient minerals and vitamins through dietary sourcing however a supplement is recommended for some people. Dietary sources for calcium are dairy products like yoghurt, milk, cheese, sardines, salmon green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale.
Here are other great supplements that can be taken throughout your pregnancy to boost your Calcium + Vitamin D3