This post was written by Juna Advisor & Registered Dietician and Nutritionist – Lauren Manaker, RDN.
We hear all about folate, iron, and calcium when a woman becomes pregnant. While it is true that these nutrients are critically important to take in to support mom and baby, there is one essential mineral that is sometimes overlooked, and that mineral is magnesium.
Many women have a lower intake of magnesium in their diet during pregnancy because the baby requires more magnesium for growth. Since magnesium plays an important role in our body for proper muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar, building proteins and many other functions, it is essential that our body has enough magnesium during pregnancy.
Why should I focus on my magnesium intake during pregnancy?
Taking in adequate magnesium can have many potential benefits for mama and baby. Some potential benefits include:
• alleviating leg cramps
• Relieving headaches
• Combatting constipation
• reducing the risk of high blood pressure
• reducing risk of developing gestational diabetes, preterm birth, small for gestational age, and intrauterine growth restriction.
• May help support good quality sleep (and what pregnant mama doesn’t crave good sleep?!)
If you are deficient in magnesium, you may also be at risk for other vascular complications such as preeclampsia, especially if there is a high intake of calcium in your diet. In fact, if preeclampsia does develop, a treatment used in clinical care is administering magnesium sulfate through an IV.
Bottom line? Making sure your body is getting enough magnesium during pregnancy is a great way to support your prenatal health.
How much magnesium do you need?
The recommended amounts of magnesium for pregnancy are listed below.
RDA for pregnancy:
14–18 years = 400 mg/day
19–30 years = 350 mg/day
31–50 years = 360 mg/day
Too much Magnesium from food does not pose any risks, but you can supplement with too much. Taking your magnesium with food can reduce the risk of certain side-effects like diarrhea.
What about magnesium for constipation?
Some pregnant women may use magnesium supplementation to help relieve constipation. Calcium citrate is the most common source for this, as it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. The water helps soften and bulk up your stool.
The exact dosage of what a woman needs depends on the symptoms and the individual. Often it is recommended that women can tolerate up to 10 ounces of magnesium citrate (with water). Of course, this should be discussed with your doctor before supplementation is started.
Liquid magnesium citrate is frequently used to help relieve constipation as well as supporting adequate magnesium levels. Tablets of magnesium glycinate are often used to support magnesium levels without the bowel-movement effects. Note that magnesium oxide is not absorbed very well and is not as effective at raising magnesium levels. It may help with heartburn symptoms.
If you are taking high amounts of calcium citrate to help relieve your constipation symptoms, you may want to choose a prenatal vitamin that is magnesium-free to ensure you are not getting too much supplementation.
How can you make sure you are getting in enough magnesium?
The best food sources include green leafy vegetables, avocados, dark chocolate, yogurt, milk, whole grains and seeds/nuts such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, and chia seeds. Just 1 cup of cooked spinach can meet 50% of your needs for the entire day!
Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds on your salad or have a yogurt as an afternoon snack to keep you nourished while also keeping your magnesium in check.
Need some inspiration?
Try this simple smoothie out. This recipe makes two servings and is chock full of magnesium along with tons of pregnancy-fueling nutrients.
To make, in a blender, blend:
- 1 frozen banana
- 5 strawberries
- ½ cup blueberries
- 2 cups washed organic spinach
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 Tbsp milled flax seeds
Serve in two glasses (one for you, one for a friend) and enjoy!
This post was written by Juna Advisor & Registered Dietician and Nutritionist – Lauren Manaker, RDN. Special thanks to Sydney Smith, dietetic intern at the Medical University of South Carolina for her assistance with this post.