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Calcium Supplements Help Babies' Bones in Calcium Deficient Women

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Koo notes that low maternal calcium intake appears to critically affect fetal bone mineralization, and warns that calcium-poor diets can occur even in societies where food is plentiful. Other research shows that calcium deficiencies can also lead to preeclampsia, a condition during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, swelling, and weight gain greater than one pound per day. Studies show the risk of preeclampsia is between 45% and 74% lower for women who received calcium supplementation.

Koo says the best way to assure normal fetal bone mineralization is for the mother to eat sufficient amounts of calcium-rich foods. "Calcium-rich foods are also rich in other nutrients critical to bone health [such as vitamin D]," says Koo.

Calcium is found primarily in milk and milk products, although broccoli and canned fish are also good sources. For women who are lactose intolerant, green leafy vegetables, tofu, canned salmon and sardines (with bones) are good sources of calcium.

A number of studies show that between 30% and 50% of women fail to consume enough calcium to meet the new RDA of 1,200 mg each day. "We often find that women calcium-deficient in their diets can't tolerate or simply don't like calcium-rich foods, especially dairy products," Ray L. Howell, MD, at East Atlanta Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates in Conyers, Ga., tells WebMD. "Even if everything else they eat is fine, their calcium levels are below where they should be."

Vital Information:

  • In pregnant women who do not consume enough calcium in their diet, taking supplements can increase the bone mineral content of their children, but for those who do get enough calcium, additional supplements do not have this effect.
  • Pregnant women should continue taking supplements as they have additional calcium needs that provide maternal and fetal benefits.
  • Low intake of calcium during pregnancy is associated with poor fetal bone mineralization and increased risk of preeclampsia.
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