Get the Calcium You Need During Pregnancy

Your body will do whatever it needs to take care of your baby, including stealing. Your body actually takes calcium from your own bones or teeth to give it to your little one. So if you want your bones and teeth to stay strong, you need to get extra calcium while your baby's growing inside you.

What Calcium Does for You
Everyone needs this essential mineral each day. Besides building teeth and bones, calcium also keeps your blood and muscles moving and helps your nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body.

Calcium Needs During Pregnancy
Your body can't make calcium, so you need to get it from food or supplements. While you're pregnant, try to get at least 1,000 mg of calcium every day. If you're 18 or younger, then you need at least 1,300 mg of calcium every day.

Foods High in Calcium
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are some of the best sources of calcium. Dark, leafy green vegetables also have calcium but in much smaller amounts.

Some foods have calcium added to them, including calcium-fortified cereal, bread, orange juice, and soy drinks. Check food labels to know for sure.

There are plenty of calcium-rich foods for you to choose from.

415 mg: Yogurt, 8 oz, plain low-fat

375 mg: Orange juice, 6 oz of calcium-fortified OJ

325 mg: Sardines, 3 oz canned with bones in oil

307 mg: Cheddar cheese, 1.5 oz

299 mg: Milk, 8 oz nonfat

253 mg: Tofu, 1/2 cup, firm, made with calcium sulfate

181 mg: Salmon, 3 oz canned with bones

100 to 1,000 mg: Cereal, 1 cup of calcium-fortified types

94 mg: Kale, 1 cup, cooked

80 to 500 mg: Soy beverage, 8 oz, calcium-fortified

74 mg: Bok choy, 1 cup, raw

Here are a few examples on how to reach that 1,000 mg goal: Drink 3 cups of milk or calcium-fortified orange juice or choose a cereal that has 1,000 mg of calcium.

What to Know About Calcium Supplements

If you're allergic to milk, are lactose intolerant, or are vegan, getting enough calcium from food can be difficult. If you don't get enough from food, your doctor may recommend a calcium supplement.

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Pick the type that works for you. Calcium supplements come in two forms: carbonate and citrate.

  • Calcium carbonate is less expensive and works best if you take it with food.
  • Calcium citrate works just as well with food or on an empty stomach.

Many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.

Limit to 500 mg at a time. To make sure your body absorbs the most calcium possible, take only 500 mg of calcium at a time. For example, this might mean taking a 500 mg supplement with breakfast and another with dinner.

Breastfeeding needs more calcium, too. You need to continue calcium supplements while you're breastfeeding. Research shows you may lose 3% to 5% of your bone mass when you nurse because you lose some of your calcium through breast milk. Luckily, if you are careful to eat foods with calcium and take supplements as advised, you should regain that bone mass within 6 months after you stop breastfeeding.

Potential side effects. Supplements may make you feel bloated, gassy, or constipated. If they do, try taking the calcium supplement with food. Or talk with your doctor about taking a different type or brand of calcium supplement.

Too much calcium may cause kidney stones and prevent your body from absorbing zinc and iron, which you need to stay healthy. While you're pregnant, don't take more than 2,500 mg of calcium each day (3,000 mg if you're 18 or younger). If you’re concerned you might be getting too much calcium, talk with your doctor before you make any changes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on May 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Eat Right During Pregnancy"

CDC: "Calcium and Bone Health"

March of Dimes: "Vitamins and minerals during pregnancy"

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium"

Nemours Foundation: "Your Baby's Development"

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases, National Resource Center: "Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Bone Health"

© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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