The recommended daily intake of calcium for women is 1000mg/day (1300mg/d if you are 19 or younger).
Reports shows that the general population at large is not meeting their Calcium needs as it is, Asia has a <400mg Ca/day dietary intake and countries in Africa and South America 400-700 mg/d. Women in America consume 600-800 mg/day of dietary Ca . Only Northern Europe has an average 1000mg/d intake.
- Calcium and magnesium deficiency has been linked to PMS symptoms. Ovarian hormones influence calcium, magnesium and vitamin D metabolism. The similarity between the symptoms of PMS and hypocalcemia is remarkable. Clinical trials in women with PMS have found that calcium supplementation effectively alleviates the majority of mood and somatic symptoms.
But beyond general female health, calcium plays a crucial role in pregnancy & labour
Calcium is obviously an important mineral during pregnancy , not only for optimal fetal development but decreasing the risk of hypertention and preeclampsia and the body does everything it can to optimise calcium absorption during the last few months of pregnancy.
- During gestation the average fetus requires about 30 g of calcium to mineralize its skeleton and maintain normal physiological processes. About 80% of the calcium present in the fetal skeleton at the end of gestation crossed the placenta during the third trimester and is mostly derived from dietary absorption of calcium during pregnancy
- Oxytocin and uterine cells make use of calcium stores for uterine contractions and therefore low calcium stores may have consequences on the initiation of labour and the strength of contractions.
- Vit D is needed for the absorption of Calcium. Your body can not utilise your calcium intake efficiently if your Vit D stores are low. When specific indications were examined, Vit D deficiency has been linked to doubling the risk of cesarean due to prolonged labour.
- The body is aware of its need for calcium leading up to labour and delivery so much so that Intestinal calcium absorption doubles during pregnancy, and this appears to be the main adaptation through which women meet the calcium demands of pregnancy. Even women who are generally lactose intolerant (dairy being the best source of calcium) will become tolerant by term as calcium tolerance improves with gestation. One study found that out of 114 women who were lactose intolerant before 15 weeks, 44% had become tolerant by term.
- Low fat yogurt contains more calcium than greek yogurt. Hard cheeses (Parmesan being the highest) are higher in calcium, and soft cheeses are avoided during pregnancy anyway.
- Supplements: Calcium carbonate may be cheaper, but calcium citrate is more easily absorbed.
- Look for a supplement with USP on the label (adequate Ca, dissolves well, free of lead and toxic metals). no supplement with dolomite, bone meal, oyster shell or coral. and dont overdo it on the Ca supplement.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Dairy is one of the absolute best sources of calcium and Id like to just point out a few things here. The way our dairy is processed these days make for it to be a very controversial food, but it does still contain so many nutritional benefits if we are determined to source our dairy ORGANICALLY, hormone free and from GRASS FED cows instead of grain fed.
Also, Many women who are vegan or full on vegetarian start craving animal products during pregnancy and feel extremely guilty about this. Id like to encourage you to listen to your body as it knows what it needs…. Food is medicine, and animal products can be honoured in reverence for its medicinal contribution to our health. This is a life-cycle where intuition and maternal instincts are not to be underestimated.