News | 1 March 2019

Too little calcium in multivitamins for pregnant women

Multivitamins for pregnant women do not contain enough calcium to meet the recommended daily allowance. Approximately 60 percent of these women therefore get too little calcium (less than one gram per day). This increases the risk of complications for mother and child. This was the conclusion of scientists from Maastricht UMC+ and Maastricht University following a study of approximately 2,500 pregnant women in Limburg. They describe the study's results in the European Journal of Nutrition.

iStockiStockIn the Netherlands, it is recommended that one gram of calcium be consumed daily during pregnancy. This can reduce the risk of preterm birth, weak bones in the unborn baby and low birth weight. In addition, calcium can prevent high blood pressure in the expectant mother and reduce the risk of preeclampsia. This form of poisoning during pregnancy can potentially be life-threatening for both mother and child. In practice, it seems to be difficult for women to get the recommended daily allowance of calcium.

Too little
Approximately 60 percent of pregnant women take daily dietary supplements in the form of multivitamins. Although these supplements are an excellent addition to the diet, they contain only a fraction (or sometimes even none) of the recommended daily allowance of calcium. Approximately 60 percent of pregnant women get too little of the mineral through food and possibly supplements. Although separate calcium tablets contain a much larger amount of calcium, these are only used by two percent of pregnant women.

The research results confirm the need to pay extra attention to calcium intake during pregnancy. "In principle, enough of the mineral can be ingested through food alone, but our study shows us that in practice this is unmanageable", says epidemiologist Prof. Luc Smits. "Dietary supplements may be the solution, but good recommendations are needed." Gynecologist Dr Liesbeth Scheepers adds: "The views of the pregnant woman are also important in this. For example, what does she herself think about the risk of preeclampsia and dietary supplements. In addition, follow-up research is needed to identify risk groups, for example. Ultimately, we want to be able to give every pregnant woman the best personal recommendations possible."

The research results are from the EXPECT study. More about this project is available in Dutch at: