Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Low Calcium May Equal High Lead Levels in Pregnant Women

WebMD Health News

Nov. 8, 2000 -- Most pregnant women pay close attention to nutrition. But one thing they may not be aware of is the link between calcium intake and lead. New research suggests that not getting enough calcium during this critical time can drive up levels of lead in the blood, which could be harmful to a developing baby.

Lead in a mother's blood may affect the development of various organs of the fetus, including the brain. In children, lead exposure has been linked to learning and intelligence problems.

During pregnancy, when the body's demand for calcium is high, not getting enough of the crucial mineral speeds up the production of new bone to replace old, dying bone. Because nearly all of the body's lead is stored away in bone, the lead "leaks" into the bloodstream when the bone turns over. It's a process that calcium can help prevent.

A study in the November issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that women with the lowest levels of calcium -- gotten from either food or supplements -- also had the highest levels of lead in the blood. Although the study did not show any direct health impact on the fetus, the researchers say it's reasonable to assume that any amount of lead in the body would be potentially dangerous.

The study involved almost 200 pregnant women who had their blood drawn and tested for lead up to five times during their pregnancy. The women also reported on the amount of calcium in their diet from foods including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, eggs, pizza, and fish.

"Definitely, the women who were getting very little calcium were at risk for higher blood lead levels," says lead author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She says most of the women in the study reported getting the bulk of their daily calcium from milk and cheese pizza. Other common sources included vitamins and antacids.

In addition, black women had lower calcium intake and higher blood lead levels than white women, and smokers had lower calcium and higher lead than nonsmokers.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
healthtool pregnancy calendar
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy