Getting Enough Calcium During Pregnancy

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Why Calcium is Important

Calcium is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles in the body. While most commonly associated with strong teeth and bones and the prevention of osteoporosis, calcium is also involved in muscle contraction, including contraction of the uterus during childbirth, regulation of the heartbeat, blood clotting, enzyme production, blood pressure regulation, and proper functioning of the nervous system.

Getting sufficient calcium is even more important in pregnancy to ensure proper growth of the developing baby. If the expectant mother isn’t getting sufficient calcium in her diet, calcium needed for the baby’s development will be drawn from the mother’s bones. Calcium deficiency during pregnancy can contribute to a difficult delivery and prolonged recovery period after childbirth. The recommended daily amount of calcium for pregnant and lactating women is 1,200 milligrams.

Ways to Add Calcium to the Diet

Here is a list of foods that are a rich source of calcium:

  • Dairy products including whole, lowfat or nonfat milk, buttermilk, goat’s milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt and ice cream
  • Canned fish such as sardines and salmon with bones
  • Dark green leafy vegetables including spinach, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, bok choi, and kale
  • Foods produced from soy, such as tofu and soymilk
  • Almonds, brazil nuts and sesame seeds
  • Dried beans
  • Black strap molasses
  • Kelp

In addition to drinking a glass of milk or eating a cup of yogurt, dairy products can be added to the diet in a variety of ways, such as macaroni and cheese, casseroles, cream soups, cheese or yogurt toppings, milk-based sauces on vegetables and potatoes, and puddings.

Many foods that may not be naturally rich in calcium are available with additional calcium added. Choose calcium-fortified orange juice, breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, cereal bars, and bread.

Pregnant women who are lactose-intolerant can try lactose-free dairy products that are now commonly available, including lactose-free milk. Depending on the degree of lactose-intolerance, some women may be able to eat small amounts of hard cheeses, buttermilk, or fermented milk products such as yogurt with no harmful effects.

Are Calcium Supplements Necessary?

Iti s best to get calcium and other nutrients through a variety of foods, but it may not always be possible due to allergies or other dietary restrictions. If this is the case, a calcium supplement may be necessary. Many prenatal multivitamins do not contain the recommended daily amount of calcium. If the amount of calcium in the multivitamin is less than 1,000 mg, a separate calcium supplement can make up the difference. Calcium in supplements may be in the form of calcium citrate or calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is absorbed better when taken with food, while calcium citrate is absorbed equally well whether taken with food or on an empty stomach. Chewable over the counter antacids contain calcium carbonate, and are often recommended as calcium supplements. Each tablet contains between 200-400 mg of calcium.


Office of Dietary Supplements Calcium Fact Sheet

March of Dimes Calcium and Pregnancy

This post is part of the series: Pregnancy Nutrition

Learn the ins and outs of pregnancy nutrition, including foods that you should be eating and foods that aren’t safe.

  1. What Are the Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy?
  2. Getting Enough Calcium During Pregnancy
  3. Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Pregnancy
  4. Diet During Pregnancy: Consequences of a Poor Diet
  5. What Vitamins are Needed During Pregnancy?
  6. Nutrition During Pregnancy - A Healthy Diet
  7. Pregnancy Food Guide: What to Eat and What Not to Eat
  8. Healthy Weight Gain Tips for Pregnancy
  9. Eating Iron-Rich Foods During Pregnancy
  10. How to Avoid Gaining Too Much Weight During Pregnancy