How important is calcium during pregnancy? Very. Baby’s bones, teeth, heart, nerves and muscles all depend on calcium for growth. It’s so essential, in fact, that if you don’t include enough in your diet, baby will start leaching it from your bones—which is not a good thing for either of you.
In terms of how much calcium you need when pregnant, experts recommend getting 1,000 mg per day, which is about four servings of calcium-rich foods. (The old standard of 1,200mg was recently lowered, because research shows your body can’t absorb much more than 1,000 mg.)
And no, “I don’t like dairy” is not an excuse—calcium is also found in tofu, tortillas, boiled turnip greens, fortified bread and orange juice, sardines and canned salmon. (Read up on seafood safety before eating any fish, though.) Make sure your prenatal vitamin has at least 150 to 200 mg of calcium, and if you need an extra boost, pick up a calcium supplement. Just make sure to find one with calcium carbonate, which is easiest for your body to absorb, and check that it says “lead free”—some so-called “natural” supplements actually contain lead, which can be harmful to baby.