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We all know that adequate calcium intake is important during pregnancy, mainly for a mother’s bone health as well as to support the growth of your baby. Interestingly, calcium requirements do not differ between non-pregnant and pregnant women. This is due to the physiological adaptations of a woman’s body during pregnancy which helps to preserve maternal calcium while still meeting the optimal growth of the fetus. Hormones during pregnancy increase calcium absorption to meet the biological demands for the fetus to grow.
Sufficient calcium intake may reduce risk of pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is a complication during pregnancy that is defined as the new onset of hypertension (systolic >140mmHg and diastolic >90mmHg) in addition to proteinuria. Proteinuria is the presence of protein in the urine which is abnormal. Rates of pre-eclampsia are three times higher in women who have BMI above 30. Women who are at risk of developing preeclampsia are women with:
- History of high blood pressure during previous pregnancy
- Chronic kidney disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Pre-existing high blood pressure before pregnancy
- Autoimmune disease (immune system abnormally attacks own body cells or organs)
Mothers who develop this complication have lifelong complications for both mother and baby. Unfortunately, these mothers would have a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular medical conditions, stroke, and hypertension. Infants are also at risk of similar cardiovascular diseases and complications during adulthood.
Vitamin D and Calcium comes hand in hand
Vitamin D is known for its role to increase the absorption of calcium from the blood into the bones. It helps to support bone health. Optimal Vitamin D levels are also known to also help support the immune system, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors have observed that patients with higher serum levels of Vitamin D had lower mortality rates and vice versa. In terms of pregnancy, there are other studies that show a relationship between calcium and Vitamin D in preventing pre-eclampsia. Supplementation of calcium and Vitamin D in women who have low levels had a 46% and 53% reduction in risk respectively when compared to the placebo group.
General Dietary Tips
None of the advice here should be taken as professional advice. Always seek your attending doctor or dietitian on such management if you are concerned or may have such medical conditions. No one mummy is exactly the same as another mummy. If calcium is so important, then some of the foods rich in calcium that should be included in a mother’s diet during pregnancy should include foods like:
- Dairy milk
- Fortified soy milk
- Fortified soy bean curd
Not only are these foods high in calcium, but they are also good sources of protein! If you experience food aversion and struggle to keep foods like these down at any time, then considering appropriate supplements should be discussed with your doctor. On the other hand, foods that can be good sources of vitamin D that can be included in a diet frequently:
- Fortified soy
- Fortified milk
- Sun dried mushrooms, especially shiitake mushrooms
- Cod fish
Honestly, obtaining enough Vitamin D solely from food, even from fortified foods can be quite difficult and that’s why in Singapore, mothers are recommended to have a walk, be exposed to the sun for at least 15 to 30 minutes, two times per week. This is the easiest source to get vitamin D. Exposure to the sun on the skin will help the skin to produce vitamin D needed for the body.
Therefore, for mothers who may have other conditions or circumstances, that may not allow you to be under the sun during pregnancy, then it is wise to discuss with your doctor or dietitian, get your levels checked, and seek individualized supplementation. Interestingly, a recent GUSTO study in Singapore found that up to 40% of women in Singapore during mid-pregnancy to be having deficient and suboptimal levels of vitamin D.
That being said, calcium and vitamin D are important even after pregnancy. Although there isn’t a risk of pre-eclampsia anymore, adequate calcium and vitamin D remain important to maintain mummies’ nutritional status. Although calcium in breast milk comes from mummies’ bone stores, it is still important to have adequate calcium intake. Vitamin D is very essential to maintain in mummies during postpartum because it depends on maternal serum levels. This level depends on adequate sun exposure, vitamin D-rich food intake, or supplement. If you’re not having enough, a good chance, the baby may not be having enough. That’s why it’s important for pregnant women to have foods like shiitake mushroom, salmon, and fortified soy in their diet.
Your calcium and vitamin D intake remains important even after pregnancy. Hence, one of the best confinement food Singapore mothers can have are the ones that have foods rich in calcium too despite it following TCM principles – where dairy milk may not be part of a traditional confinement diet. Other calcium-rich sources of foods like broccoli, fortified tofu, soybeans and such are so important to be incorporated as part of your list of confinement food to have.If you are looking for a trusted post pregnancy meal delivery Singapore service, Tian Wei Signature offers a list of confinement food filled with various essential nutrients including calcium and vitamin D. Our fusion and traditional confinement meals are dietitian-guided and MSG-free to support you on your postpartum recovery and breastfeeding journey. Learn more about our services now!