I heard about this a couple of years ago and dismissed it, but recently I’ve read more and more about the link between calcium supplementation and easier, less painful labors. Most of the research I’ve done is lacking detailed studies, and most research is only anecdotal. . . .but I’m starting to wondering if there’s really something to it.
It makes perfect sense: calcium is known to help relieve leg, back and joint pains often associated with pregnancy. Sufficient calcium is vital not only for bone development, but also for the release of neurotransmitters and muscle stimulation, among other roles. Magnesium helps promote the absorption and metabolism of calcium and other minerals, and is also involved in muscle impulse transmission and the proper functioning of muscles. A calcium supplement with magnesium is the first thing I recommend to a pregnant mom complaining of leg cramps. Often a dose taken every night will resolve the problem completely.
So, how might this be used in labor? From the research I’ve done, the recommendation for easing labor is to take 2,000 milligrams at the onset of labor — I would combine this with 1,000 milligrams of magnesium, following the 2:1 ratio suggested when these minerals are taken together. Though I can’t find any official studies, personal stories about how this has helped women cope with labor can be found all over the Internet. Apparently, many women have experienced less painful contractions, have found greater relaxation, and experienced shorter, easier births by taking calcium in early labor.
In comparison to other supplements, which can be dangerous if taken in excessive doses, moderately increasing Calcium/Magnesium for a single dose poses no risk to mom or baby (women with kidney malfunction should not take more than 3,000 mg of magnesium per day).
Just because a little may be a good thing, however, doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Too much magnesium could have the effect of slowing down labor by over-relaxing the muscles of your uterus, and excessively high doses of calcium taken for several days or weeks before labor could even result in hypocalecmia of the newborn.
If you’re looking for natural ways to ease labor pains, this might be something to try. If it has worked for you, it would be great to hear you story — comment below!
[Information from Davis, Elizabeth, Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth; and Kirschman, John D., Nutrition Almanac.]
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