This article will discuss the causes and risk factors for low calcium levels in pregnancy and its treatment.


Calcium deficiency and pregnancy

Low calcium level during pregnancy is a rare occurrence and usually happens because of severe dietary deficiency and parathyroid gland disorders. If a pregnant woman has a low calcium level, it may harm the baby’s and mother’s health.

Pregnancy: Common Deficiency And Side Effects To Expect

Early-stage calcium deficiency may not have symptoms. As the problem progresses, the symptoms may include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Weak and brittle nails
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Tingling and numbness in the feet, hands, and face
  • Hallucinations
  • Easy fracturing of the bones

If a newborn baby has low calcium levels, they may have the following symptoms:

  • Poor feeding
  • Slowed breathing
  • Jitteriness
  • Seizures
  • Faster than normal heartbeat

Low Calcium Levels & Pregnancy, Why It Happens?

Calcium is one of the essential minerals needed during pregnancy. It helps develop the baby’s vital structures, including the bones and the joints (skeleton). During the pregnancy, calcium requirement increases, and if the diet is deficient in calcium, it may result in low calcium levels.

And for the same reason, the doctor may advise calcium supplements during pregnancy. However, too much and too little calcium in your body can cause complications. 

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Importance of calcium for the baby

The developing baby needs calcium to develop bones, teeth, and the entire skeleton. It is also essential for the baby’s:

  • Muscles
  • Hormones
  • Heart
  • Nerves

Importance of calcium for the mother: Why calcium deficiency happens during pregnancy

The baby derives all the calcium needed for development from the mother’s body during pregnancy. So, you need to take the recommended calcium every day to maintain your and your baby’s health. If you don’t take enough calcium, it may cause complications.

Besides, if you don’t take enough calcium, your body gives your calcium to the baby. And not replacing the calcium may cause weak bones and an increased risk of brittle bones in the future. 

Risk of calcium deficiency include:

  • Dietary intolerance to calcium-rich foods
  • Genetic factors
  • Poor calcium intake
  • Medicines that alter calcium absorption

How does Calcium Medication help?

Treatment of low calcium levels may include intravenous calcium gluconate followed by oral calcium supplements.

Taking calcium supplements allows the regular development of the mother and baby. The right dose of calcium supplements helps prevent low or high calcium levels complications.

Complications of too little calcium while pregnant

In most cases, you may not experience major complications. Common ones in mother and baby include:

  • Premature birth
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Slow baby growth
  • Heart problems
  • A poor appetite
  • Leg and muscle cramps
  • The baby not getting enough calcium in the bones

Complications of too much calcium while pregnant

High calcium level is rare from the foods. It can be possible only if you take supplements in excessive amounts.

Taking more calcium may result in:

  • Kidney stones
  • Constipation
  • Irregular heartbeats

Calcium Use And Dosage

Tips to take calcium supplements:

  • It is available as a tablet to be taken orally, once or more, with or without food or as prescribed by your physician.
  • Take this tablet daily at the same time.
  • Follow all the instructions on the prescription label. 
  • Do not stop taking this medication abruptly without consulting your doctor.
  • Do not take it more or less, or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor. 
  • Do not stop using it even if you feel well.
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If You Miss the Calcium Dose

  • If you happen to miss a dose of calcium, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. 
  • However, if it is almost time for the next dose, do not take the missed dose and continue with your next scheduled dose. 
  • Do not take a double dose to compensate for the missed dose. 

Calcium dose to reverse deficiency during pregnancy

The dose in pregnancy is:

  • Women above 18: 1,000 milligrams per day
  • Women of 18 and younger: 1,300 milligrams per day

What side effects can you expect when taking Calcium

Like all other medications, calcium may cause side effects, although it is unlikely to happen to everyone. However, it is important that you are aware of what could be the possible side effects.

Very Common side effects:

  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach

Common side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Muscle or bone pain
  • Headache
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency of urination, especially at night
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Increase in the amount of acid your stomach produces

Rare side effects:

  • Itchy skin rash caused by allergic reaction- pale or red irregular raised patches with severe itching (hives)
  • Bruising
  • Severe dizziness
  • Troubled breathing

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. Please consult your doctor to know more about other possible side effects.

Who should not take calcium?

Inform your physician if you have the following conditions before starting calcium:

  • Hypercalcemia, high calcium level in the blood
  • Hypercalciuria, high calcium level in urine
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Kidney stones
  • A family history of kidney stones
  • Kidney disorders
  • Heart diseases
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis (a lung disease)
  • Achlorhydria (little or no stomach acid)
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (a disease of the pancreas)

Talk to your doctor before taking calcium if:

  • You are taking any other medication, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy. 
  • You are allergic to calcium or any of its ingredients or have any other allergies.
  • You are allergic to any other medication.
  • You are taking any other drugs, over-the-counter medicines, herbal products, or nutritional supplements.
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What medications to avoid while taking calcium supplements

Besides, certain medicines may interfere with its working and thus might not be safe to take. Some of them are:

  • Digoxin
  • Cellulose sodium phosphate 
  • Phosphate binders, such as calcium acetate
  • Bisphosphonates, such as alendronate
  • Tetracycline antibiotics, such as minocycline and doxycycline
  • Quinolone antibiotics, such as levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin
  • Levothyroxine
  • Estramustine
  • Nonprescription/herbal products
  • Thiazide diuretics

This may not be a comprehensive list, and other drugs may interact with calcium. Please inform your doctor if you are taking any of the medicines listed above.

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