We were all rooting for new mom Sarah Brown to crush it at the Olympic trials and get to Rio. As moms who’ve done the postpartum recovery thing a time or two or three, we knew it would be tough for her to bounce back in time, but damn if we weren’t rooting for her. I loved the idea that she could stay true to her hopes and dreams even in the face of tough odds. Her determination alone is inspiring.
She had the decks stacked against her enough with just dealing with having a baby and all, but then she developed osteopenia — low bone density that led to two spinal fractures and a sacral fracture, which forced her to take time off with precious little time to spare. If bouncing back after pregnancy and childbirth wasn’t hard enough, three fractures and a forced break certainly didn’t help matters. We’re trying to stop throwing our pity party about not being able to root for her in Rio; I mean, couldn’t you just image the pre-race coverage on her as an Olympian?
Anyway, pity party aside, we threw some questions to registered dietician and nutrition consultant and spokeperson for Cal-EZ, Danielle Omar, MS, RD, who spoke to us on the topic of the importance of calcium and vitamin D, particularly during and after pregnancy because no new mom wants to deal with the kinds of trouble vitamin deficiencies can cause when they should be focused on baby and sleep. It sounds like Sarah had a genetic propensity for her issues, but this is still great advice and tips for all of us!
How common is a calcium or vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy? Vitamin D deficiency is pretty widespread. Health officials says that 40 to 60 percent of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient and most people don’t meet their daily calcium needs. Inadequate vitamin D during pregnancy is linked to weaker bones and fractures in newborns, and newborn blood levels of vitamin D are dependent on mom’s vitamin D levels.
Does working out a lot contribute to vitamin D or calcium deficiency during pregnancy? Exercise positively effects bone mineral density and contributes to strong bones, particularly weight-bearing exercise like running or strength training. Studies show three or more hours a week of vigorous exercise actually increases vitamin D stores.
However, some studies show rigorous activity can mean you lose calcium through sweat. A calcium supplement can help you avoid this loss. To maximize absorption, take it right before exercising and consider a powder like Cal-EZ, which includes vitamin D and calcium.
How can an expecting mom prevent it from happening? Start with your diet. Make sure you’re getting adequate calcium from foods first. Good sources include milk and fortified dairy products. Non-dairy foods include: greens (collards, mustard, kale, and bok choy), canned salmon (with bones) and sardines; tofu; calcium-fortified soy and nut milks, and broccoli.
A recent study found women taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing preterm labor and other complications. If you know you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet, a supplement can help. Cal-EZ is an easy way to get your daily vitamin D and calcium, and because it’s a powder with no fillers, your body will absorb it better than a tablet.
How do you know if you’re deficient? Any way to know before you have a serious problem? You can’t really know without measuring the amount of vitamin D in your blood. They do this by testing your 25(OH) D levels. You’re at higher risk for a deficiency if you’re obese or overweight, spend a lot of time indoors, have dark skin, or always use SPF/cover up when in the sun. Vitamin D deficiency not only effects your bones, but can also cause depression, digestive problems and frequent infections.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency can range from numbness or tingling in your fingers, to muscle cramps, lethargy and poor appetite. Osteoporosis, brittle, soft bones and heart pressure/heart rhythm problems can also occur.
Thanks to Danielle for answering those questions. If you follow Sarah Brown on Instagram, you know she’s back at it again with her workouts. We’re so glad to see she’s doing better and kicking butt.
Do you focus on getting your calcium? —Erin