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  If I need to take a calcium supplement, which is better during pregnancy: calcium citrate or calcium carbonate?

  Getting enough calcium while you are pregnant or nursing is important. For mom, calcium is involved in muscle contractions, the clotting of blood, nerve function and the regulation of heart rhythm, while also building your baby’s bones and teeth. If you do not consume enough calcium in your diet during pregnancy, the baby will rob the calcium from your bones, which will put you at greater risk of developing osteoporosis when you are older.

The calcium recommendation for pregnant women 19-50 years old is 1,000 milligrams each day. This can be achieved by consuming 3 to 4 servings of dairy products daily. Most prenatal supplements contain only 200-300 milligrams, so your diet must be the greatest source of daily calcium. Using the BabyFit Nutrition Tracker will help you determine if your intake is sufficient. If you cannot get enough calcium from food, calcium supplements may be helpful, and you would want to speak with your health care provider about them.

There are two different forms of calcium supplements: Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Both are good choices for supplementation.

Calcium citrate (Citrical brand) is the BEST absorbed supplemental form of calcium. It can be taken on an empty stomach because it does not require stomach acid to break apart.

Calcium carbonate (Tums, Caltrate, Viactiv Calcium Chews, Os-Cal, and Nature Made brands) is the most common type of calcium supplement on the market. Since it usually needs extra stomach acid to break apart, it is best taken with food.

Avoid the following calcium supplements: dolomite, oyster shell, coral calcium, and bone meal, which are naturally-occurring calcium carbonate sources. These natural sources however may contain heavy metals, like lead, which are stored in bones and can cause serious health problems.

Likewise calcium phosphate, calcium lactate and calcium gluconate are not rich sources of calcium. Each tablet contains very small amounts of calcium, so these should be avoided as well.

Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit healthy eating expert


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