Magnesium in pregnancy: important questions and answers

Magnesium in der Schwangerschaft: Wichtige Fragen und Antworten

It is well known that during pregnancy there is an increased need for calories, nutrients, minerals and trace elements. With the onset of early pregnancy, however, the importance of an adequate magnesium supply for pregnant women increases. After all, not only the mother but also the unborn child must be supplied with sufficient magnesium.

In this article you can find out why this is the case, which functions magnesium has in the body, how much magnesium a pregnant woman should consume and whether supplementation with magnesium preparations is advisable. We also dispel any doubts about magnesium in general. So if you want to read an independent, objective article on the subject, you've come to the right place.

the essentials in brief

  • Magnesium is an essential mineral from the group of bulk elements that is vital for our body. It is involved in many metabolic processes and is a component of every living cell.
  • However, we cannot produce magnesium ourselves, we have to supply it externally. Storage is also not possible, which is why the body must be supplied with a sufficient amount of the mineral every day.
  • During pregnancy, the requirement increases from 300 milligrams to 310 to 350 milligrams per day. This difference can usually be absorbed through food or, after consultation with the doctor, supplemented with supplements.

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What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral for the body. It cannot be produced in the body and must therefore be ingested in sufficient quantities regularly with food. If the recommended amount is not reached in this way, it is advisable to increase your magnesium balance with supplements.

Within the group of minerals, magnesium is counted among the bulk elements. Due to their electrical conductivity, bulk elements, which in addition to magnesium also include calcium, sodium and potassium, are also referred to as electrolytes. They are the basic building blocks of all living cells and define the water balance in the body.

The average adult body contains around 25 grams of magnesium. Almost all of it is stored inside the cells of bones, muscles and nerves, which is why magnesium is also considered a bone and muscle mineral.

What functions does it perform in the body?

Magnesium is an important component of body cells and fluids and is of central importance for a number of tasks in the human organism, for example numerous enzyme functions, muscle activity, nerve stimulus performance and mineralization of bones and teeth.

Magnesium is also known as an "anti-stress mineral" because it down-regulates the excitability of the nervous system. It can also improve insulin sensitivity and has beneficial effects on blood pressure, which in turn contributes to cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also often associated with mental health and appears to be important in preventing migraines as well. (1)

How much magnesium do I need?

The daily dose of magnesium for a healthy adult should be around 300 to 400 milligrams . However, the need varies according to age and gender. (2)

In principle, the requirement can easily be covered by a balanced and varied diet. To find out whether you are getting enough magnesium with your food, it is best to contact your family doctor and have a blood test done.

Certain groups of people may have an increased need for magnesium:

  • people with high stress levels
  • Pregnant or lactating women
  • competitive athletes (3)

Which foods contain magnesium?

As already mentioned, the magnesium requirement can easily be covered by a healthy, balanced and varied diet. Below we have compiled a list of foods that are particularly rich in magnesium, which you should include more in your diet if you suspect a deficiency. (4)

Groceries Magnesium content per 100 g
pumpkin seeds 535 mg
sunflower seeds 420 mg
linseed 350 mg
sesame 347 mg
pine nuts 234 mg
oatmeal 139 mg
whole wheat pasta 130 mg
Corn 91 mg
spinach 58 mg

So if you have already noticed an undersupply of the mineral, you can first try to get your magnesium balance back on track with the foods listed above. If possible, discuss this with your doctor.

> nuts and kernels

Nuts and kernels in particular have a very high magnesium content and should therefore be included more in your diet. (Image Source: Maddi Bazzocco / Unsplash)

How do I recognize a magnesium deficiency?

A lack of magnesium results in consequences for the functioning of the organs and the human body's response to external and internal stress. In addition, the development of high blood pressure is promoted. (3)

Nevertheless, a magnesium deficiency is a widespread phenomenon nowadays. Possible signs of magnesium deficiency include:

  • leg cramps
  • Headache
  • cardiac arrhythmias
  • Nausea and Vomiting (5)

However, since these are very general symptoms, we definitely recommend that you consult a doctor and do not diagnose yourself.

What are the side effects of taking magnesium?

An overdose of magnesium is usually not possible, since our organism simply excretes too much magnesium through the kidneys. Only when you consume a very large amount of magnesium can diarrhea or vomiting occur in order to excrete the excess amount taken.

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Background: What you should know about magnesium during pregnancy

As already mentioned in the previous section, the daily requirement for magnesium changes during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. We have summarized all information about the level of requirement, deficiency symptoms and the optimal supply of magnesium for you in the following paragraphs.

How does the need for magnesium change during pregnancy?

Basically, the change in magnesium requirements during pregnancy is only slight. The requirement increases from around 300 milligrams to 310 to 350 milligrams per day. During the lactation period, the need increases again slightly and rises to 390 milligrams per day.

A magnesium deficiency is therefore primarily caused by poor nutrition. The first signs of this can be increased morning sickness, slight cramps in the uterine muscles, muscle tension and calf cramps. However, these are not clear enough to be able to identify a magnesium deficiency yourself. We therefore definitely recommend consulting a doctor. (6)

Why is magnesium so important during pregnancy?

Due to the growth of the unborn child and the placenta during pregnancy, the need for magnesium increases. Due to hormonal changes, the excretion of the mineral that is essential for humans increases by around 20 percent. (6)

During the last three months of pregnancy, the embryo stores up to seven milligrams of magnesium in the growing bones and muscles.

Another factor is possible changes in eating habits and aversions to some foods and dishes during pregnancy. In addition, the onset of nausea can further complicate the absorption of food and thus jeopardize the adequate absorption of certain nutrients and minerals.

How do I meet my magnesium needs during pregnancy?

Normally, the increased need can be covered without difficulty through a balanced diet. Accordingly, magnesium supplements can usually be dispensed with. However, pregnant women should be particularly careful to eat enough foods containing magnesium.

If this is not possible for any reason, a magnesium deficiency can also be prevented by taking magnesium supplements after consultation with the responsible doctor. As already explained, an overdose of magnesium is practically impossible due to the excretion of any excess by the kidneys.

In some cases, however, it may be advisable for pregnant women to take additional magnesium for medical reasons. The attending doctor then prescribes these for certain complications such as leg cramps, premature labor or preeclampsia (pregnancy poisoning).

In any case, the additional intake of magnesium by means of preparations should be discussed in advance with the responsible doctor.

How long does the increased need for magnesium last?

This cannot be generalized. Some experts recommend starting with an increased intake as early as possible and continuing until you are breastfeeding. After all, the infant must be supplied with all the necessary nutrients after birth through breastfeeding via breast milk. (6)

breastfeeding woman with a baby

100 milliliters of breast milk contain an average of 3 milligrams of magnesium, which the infant urgently needs for its biofactor supply. (Image Source: Manojiit Tamen / Pixabay)

If, finally, the infant is fed with industrially produced infant formula, the demand should decrease again. This basically contains all the nutrients that the baby needs.

Is there a connection between magnesium and labor?

Contrary to some rumors about magnesium intake and the resulting inhibition of labour, there is no evidence that magnesium actually has any effect on a pregnant woman's labour. Therefore, if magnesium supplements are taken, it is not necessary to start them close to the due date. (6)

Conclusion

An adequate supply of magnesium is of great importance for both pregnant and non-pregnant people. In most cases, this is simply done through a balanced and healthy diet. The need for magnesium for pregnant women increases with the beginning of pregnancy, but only so slightly that the difference can easily be absorbed through food.

For pregnant and especially breastfeeding women, it is important to ensure that they eat enough magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, seeds and whole grain products. If this cannot be guaranteed, magnesium supplements can also be used after consultation with the doctor.

itemizations

  1. Mauskop A, Varughese J (2012): Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm.
  2. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2004): "Use of minerals in food", Magnesium p. 127
  3. Kisters, Klaus/Gröber, Uwe (2010): Magnesium Update 2010. Use in hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
  4. German Health Aid (2015): Nutrition and vital substances. Nutritional table: Magnesium in food.
  5. Spegg, H./Erfurt, D. (2012): Nutrition and Dietetics. German pharmacist publisher.
  6. SpÀtling, L. et al. (2015): Magnesium supplementation during pregnancy. Recommendations of the Society for Magnesium Research eV
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