Calcium – an essential nutrient in pregnancy

Calcium is important for bone strength. Generally, the calcium needs of the baby during pregnancy are met through the mother absorbing and retaining more calcium during this time.

For women aged over 19 years their calcium needs are the same when pregnant as when they are not pregnant, as calcium is absorbed and retained more efficiently during pregnancy.

Teenage mothers, however, have higher calcium needs because their bones are growing at the same time as their body is developing the new baby.

Teenagers who are pregnant need to aim for 4 servings of dairy foods each day, instead of the recommended 3 servings of dairy foods for pregnant women over 19 years of age.

A serving of dairy food is:

  • 250 ml milk
  • 2 scoops of ice-cream (140grams)
  • 1 pottle yoghurt (150g)
  • 200 grams cottage cheese or ricotta
  • 2 slices cheese (40g)
  • 250 ml calcium fortified soy milk

Rich dietary sources of calcium should be included in the diet each day, such as dairy products – milk, cheese and yoghurt. Low fat milks have a higher calcium level than full cream or homogenized milk.

If you do not eat dairy products, other rich sources include:

  • calcium fortified soy milk
  • canned fish with bones,
  • nuts*
  • green leafy vegetables
  • dried fruit
  • tofu
  • wholegrain breads and cereals

For more about nutrition in pregnancy see our articles on iron in pregnancy or folate in pregnancy

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Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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