Like most kids, you were likely taught to drink your milk. Stronger bones, better teeth -- your parents probably gave you plenty of reasons to drink up. But now that you're a parent yourself, it may have been a while since you drank the white stuff beyond maybe dumping some in your coffee. Here's what you need to know.
Try these creative tips from the American Dietetic Association:
A pregnant woman's need for calcium goes up in the third trimester, when the baby's skeleton is rapidly developing. "The fetal skeleton gets what it needs, no matter what, even if it has to leech essentials from its mother's bones," says Murray Favus, MD, director of the bone program and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. But nature is on Mom's side too: "A woman's body can sense the increased needs of the fetus and produce more vitamin D. This enables pregnant women and nursing moms to absorb more of the calcium that's in their food," says Ruth Frechman, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, in Los Angeles.
It helps your baby grow and fortifies your breast milk. But calcium also benefits Mom's health:
Good News! Experts say pregnancy can be a great time for bone health. First, you are able to absorb more calcium. Second, your body is creating bone-strengthening estrogen. Finally, a Mom's overall skeleton gets strength training thanks to the weight of her baby.
Though the general guideline is 1,000 milligrams a day (the equivalent of three 8-ounce glasses of milk), women who are pregnant or nursing require more -- 1,200 to 1,400 milligrams a day.
If you're concerned about your calcium intake, ask your doctor about supplements. Just don't go overboard. "Too much calcium may interfere with your body's ability to absorb other minerals, cause constipation, or increase your risk of kidney stones," Dr. Favus says.
On the positive side, it's been shown that moms-to-be who took calcium supplements in the second and third trimester gave birth to babies who had a 15 percent increase in bone mineral content over children whose mothers took a placebo. In another study, pregnant women who got about 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily had a lower risk of preeclampsia (a leading cause of premature birth).
Originally published in the October 2006 issue of American Baby magazine.
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