Background: Pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of maternal death accounting for more than 50,000 maternal deaths annually worldwide, and leading to significant perinatal morbidity and mortality. Calcium supplementation in women who are calcium deficient has demonstrated a statistically significant effect in the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Baseline levels of dietary calcium intake in Australian pregnant women has not been quantified.
Aim: To estimate habitual calcium intakes of pregnant women attending antenatal clinic in a large regional Australian hospital over 1 week.
Methods: Calcium intakes for 163 randomly selected women were measured using a validated calcium-specific food-frequency questionnaire.
Results: Mean dietary calcium intake was 752 mg/day. 77% of pregnant women had intakes below the recommended daily intake (RDI). Dairy foods provided 93% of total calcium intake.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that 77% of pregnant women in a large regional hospital consume less than the RDI for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. These findings are consistent with a large-scale cohort study of non-pregnant Australian women. This is the first study to evaluate dietary calcium intake in pregnant women in Australia. Our findings suggest that dietary calcium intake in Australian pregnant women is insufficient, and interventions to increase calcium intake may significantly reduce their risk of developing pre-eclampsia.