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.
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
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.
- 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.
A Word From Verywell
The best way to be sure that you’re getting all the calcium and other nutrients that you need is to eat well. A balanced diet will keep you healthy during your pregnancy, provide your baby with what they need to grow and develop, give you strength and energy for childbirth, and encourage successful milk production once your child is born.
Dairy products are considered some of the best sources of calcium, but they aren’t your only choice. If you’re lactose intolerant, don’t eat animal products, or you just don’t like milk, you can still get enough calcium without dairy.
When you see a doctor at your prenatal appointments, talk about your diet and your concerns. Your doctor can advise you on the best way to meet your daily needs.