Your baby is counting on you
During pregnancy, the mother's body changes naturally to cope with the requirements of the growing baby. Some of these changes affect your bones. The good news is that most women do not experience bone problems during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your baby will draw what he or she needs from your bones. Your baby's needs take priority over your own, so that's why it's important for you to get the nutrition you need -for both of you. Additionally, If you have normal levels of vitamin D during your pregnancy, you will be able to provide the right amount both for your own health, and for your baby's needs. If your vitamin D levels are low during pregnancy, your baby is also likely to be vitamin D deficient
Breastfeeding also affects a mother's bones. Studies have shown that women lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass during breastfeeding, although they recover it rapidly after weaning. This bone loss may be caused by the growing baby's increased need for calcium, which is drawn from the mother's bones. The amount of calcium the mother needs depends on the amount of breast milk produced and how long breastfeeding continues. Women also may lose bone mass during breastfeeding because they are producing less estrogen, which is the hormone that protects bones. The good news is that, like bone lost during pregnancy, bone lost during breastfeeding is usually recovered within 6 months after breastfeeding ends.
Keep your bones healthy during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and beyond
If you're pregnant or lactating, you need to make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin d in your diet or with a food supplement. You may be taking a prenatal multi-vitamin/mineral that has been prescribed by your doctor. Most prenatal supplements contain a small amount of calcium.
Taking care of your bones is important throughout life, including before, during, and after pregnancy and breastfeeding. A balanced diet with adequate calcium, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are necessary for mothers and their babies.
If you are trying to become pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, you should discuss your vitamin and mineral requirements with your doctor or physician. Research has shown that low calcium and vitamin D in pregnancy is associated with a wide range of health problems, sometimes extending into adulthood.
Although this vital mineral is important throughout your lifetime, your body's demand for calcium is greater during pregnancy and breastfeeding because both you and your baby need it. The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume 1,000 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. For pregnant teens, the recommended intake is even higher: 1,300 mg of calcium a day. Good sources of calcium include:
low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens, and bok choy
canned sardines and salmon with bones
tofu, almonds, and corn tortilla
foods fortified with calcium, such as orange juice, cereals, and breads.
Food is a poor source of vitamin D. Some types of oily fish, including salmon and mackerel, naturally contain vitamin D, as do eggs, meat and liver. Margarine and some brands of milk have small amounts of vitamin D added to them. On the other hand, sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D for people of all ages. Being outside for 5-10 minutes on most days in summer with your arms exposed at mid-morning or mid-afternoon will maintain your vitamin D at normal adult levels during pregnancy. In winter, up to 40 minutes exposure at mid-day may be required, depending on your skin type and in which country you live. More information on safe sun exposure for optimal vitamin D intake you should consult your doctor or physician.
Like muscles, bones respond to exercise by becoming stronger. Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity, helps build and maintain strong bones. Examples of weight-bearing exercise include walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and weight training. Exercising during pregnancy can benefit your health in other ways, too. Being active during pregnancy can:
help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
help prevent or treat gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that starts during pregnancy)
promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
help you sleep better
help you get back in shape after your baby is born.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning, or even continuing with, exercise while you are pregnant.
Smoking is bad for your baby, bad for your bones, and bad for your heart and lungs. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. He or she can suggest resources to help you. Alcohol also is bad for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their babies, and excess alcohol is bad for bones. Be sure to follow your doctor's orders to avoid alcohol during this important time. Pregnant women should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, as well as making sure they have a good intake of calcium and vitamin D to ensure they are doing the very best they can for their baby's developing skeleton.