Calcium: From Bone Health To Must-Have Nutrient During Pregnancy — Deficiency & Treatment


By Dr. Poushali Sanyal

Calcium is an essential mineral that holds immense importance for overall health and well-being. It is integral to the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth and keeps tissue strong and flexible, allowing mobility. Calcium is also crucial for proper muscle function, neuron function, blood clotting, and hormonal secretion. The majority of calcium, about 99%, is stored within the bones. The remaining 1% is found throughout the body, in blood, muscle, and other tissues. 

Our body does not make calcium. Instead, it absorbs it from the food we eat. In order to absorb calcium adequately, our body also requires vitamin D.  If our diet does not provide sufficient calcium, the calcium stored in our bones is used. Over time this lack of dietary calcium can lead to bones becoming weaker. 

Calcium deficiency usually does not show any signs or symptoms in the initial stages. When the deficiency becomes acute, some symptoms may be observed. Severe calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth and fingertips and painful aches and spasms of the muscles.

Other symptoms include fatigue, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, weakened tooth enamel, and cognitive issues. Reduced calcium levels can lower bone strength and lead to osteoporosis, rickets in children, and other bone disorders in adults such as osteomalacia.

It is essential to ensure an adequate intake of calcium through a balanced diet or supplements prescribed by a doctor to prevent these detrimental effects and maintain optimal health.

Importance Of Calcium During Pregnancy

Calcium plays a vital role during pregnancy as it is essential for both the mother and the developing baby. It is necessary for the proper formation and growth of the baby’s bones and teeth. Sufficient calcium intake during pregnancy ensures the baby’s skeletal system develops properly.

Since the baby’s calcium needs are met by the mother’s body, it becomes necessary to take care of the mother’s calcium levels during pregnancy and lactation.

Low calcium and vitamin D intake during pregnancy increase the risk of reduced bone mass, which later develops into osteoporosis. Moreover, calcium supplementation can potentially reduce the risk of hypertensive disorders and preterm delivery.

Treating Calcium Deficiency

Women with low calcium levels can improve them by incorporating an adequate quantity of foods rich in calcium like milk, yoghurt, cheese, spinach, broccoli, avocado, and kale in their diet.  If dietary modifications remain inadequate, calcium supplements are recommended by the doctor. Most calcium supplements are paired with vitamin D to enhance their absorption. However, some of them may cause side effects, such as bloating and constipation. While choosing the calcium supplement for you, the doctor will look at one that offers increased bioavailability along with minimum gastrointestinal side effects. Therefore, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor to understand which calcium supplement works best for you.

The author is Gynecologist & Obstetrician, Sanyals Clinic and Welfare Medical Centre, Kolkata

[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.]

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