How to Keep Your Bones Healthy During Pregnancy
Bone health might be the last thing on your mind when you’re in the throes of pregnancy. It’s very possible that you’re otherwise preoccupied with managing morning sickness or satisfying those weird and wonderful cravings. However, the significance of bone health in pregnancy can’t be overstated. Thanks to the growing needs of your blossoming babe – especially when calcium is concerned – your bones will certainly need an extra dose of TLC. With that in mind, we suggest adding these bone-bolstering hacks to your traditional pregnancy arsenal.
Get enough calcium
Besides being a building block of your skeleton, calcium is also needed for countless biological operations, including blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function. And when you’re pregnant, this mineral serves the vital role of making your baby’s teeth and bones, too. Your body will do just about anything to nourish your growing cherub – even stealing. It’s true: if your calcium stores run dry, your body will hungrily leach it from your teeth and bones to provide for your little one. Want these areas of your body to stay strong and study? It’s time to up the calcium ante while your tiny nut is growing inside you. Getting your calcium fix asks more of you than simply gobbling cheese and glugging milk. Embracing a range of green leafy veggies (think rocket, curly kale, and watercress), tofu, fortified soya drinks, and some fish (sardines and pilchards) will also help you achieve the recommended daily allowance of 700mg. A word of warning, though: not all cheese mixes well with pregnancy. Avoid eating soft cheeses with white rinds (brie, camembert, and chèvre) and soft blue cheeses (gorgonzola and Roquefort). These varieties are only safe to eat if they’ve been cooked. Don’t worry; you can indulge in your favourite Danish blue when you meet your little one. Learn more about the essential nutrients needed for bone health here
Don’t neglect vitamin D
When it comes to supporting bone health, the buck doesn’t stop with calcium. You also need sufficient amounts of the sunshine nutrient, vitamin D, to nourish both you and your babe’s skeletal system. You see, vitamin D and calcium have a reciprocal relationship: calcium build bones, while vitamin D supports the absorption and utilisation of calcium in the body. They are quite the bone-bolstering team. From late March to the end of September, exposure to direct sunlight – that is, at least 15 minutes of unprotected sunlight – will deliver your daily dose of vitamin D. When the sun isn’t so readily available, however, make a conscious effort to load up on foods crammed with vitamin D; oily fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), cheese, egg yolks, and other fortified foods will provide a healthy hit. Of course, the safest way to plug any nutritional gaps is with a quality vitamin D supplement that packs 10mcg, which comes highly recommended for pregnant women by the NHSi.
Eat a balanced diet
Calcium and vitamin D aren’t the only nutrients famous for bolstering bones during pregnancy. Your body also demands the likes of vitamin K for bone formation, vitamin C for bone structure, zinc for osteoblast activity (a process in which cells aid the creation of bones), magnesium for the proper utilisation of calcium and vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids for bone mineral density. The best way you and your growing nut can soak up all of this bone-building goodness is by eating a varied, colourful and wholefood diet – one that’s abundant in enough whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy, and protein. Trust us when we say a balanced diet will benefit more than just your bones during pregnancy – every single part of your body will appreciate it, too. Learn more about managing your diet and nutrition during pregnancy here.
Beyond improving the traditional pregnancy blahs – backache, bloating, swelling, constipation, low mood, sleep problems, and sluggishness – exercising is a powerful weapon for bone health during pregnancy. Physical activity benefits bones in the same way it benefits muscles: the more you workout, the stronger your bones become. Weight-bearing exercise (jogging, dancing, brisk walking), flexibility practices (yoga, Pilates, tai chi), and resistance training (weight-lifting) are all stellar options in your bone-bolstering arsenal. Try to maintain your typical exercise routine for as long as you feel able to during pregnancy. Don’t worry; physical activity isn’t dangerous for baby. Just be sure not to exhaust yourself. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to maintain a conversation when you exercise. If you become noticeably breathless when you talk, this may signal you’re working out too vigorously. Be mindful that you may need to slow down your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses, too. Added bonus: keeping yourself fit and healthy may make labour easier.
Exercise tips for pregnancy:
Always warm up prior to physical activity, and cool down afterward
If you go to an exercise class, inform the teacher that you’re pregnant
Try to keep active on a daily basis – walking to the shops is better than nothing!
Steer clear of any activity that involves the risk of falling. Big no-no’s are downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics, and cycling!
Avoid intense exercise in hot weather
Drink plenty of water as you workout
The notion that smoking conspires to hijack health isn’t anything new. But it really is one of the worst things you can do during pregnancy – it’s bad for your baby, bad for your bones, and bad for your lungs and heart. Cigarette smoke can increase the risk of bone fractures, compromise bone mass, decrease new bone formation, and lead to weak, brittle, and porous bones – more likely. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the insidious effects of this habit, know this: smoking also increases the chance of stillbirth, birth defects, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Yet more compelling reasons to kick this habit for good, right? We understand that stubbing out smoking isn’t always easy, so be sure to get all the help you need to quit. Discover more about the effects of smoking on bone health here.
NHS.UK. (2019). Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant [24 Apr. 2019].
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Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.