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Why you need copper during pregnancy
Copper, a trace mineral found in all plant and animal tissues, is essential for forming red blood cells. This is especially important during pregnancy, when your blood supply doubles.
Copper helps form your baby's heart, blood vessels, and skeletal and nervous systems.
Copper also boosts your body's ability to mend tissues and break down sugars. And it keeps your hair growing and looking healthy.
How much copper you need
Pregnant women: 1 milligram (mg) per day
Breastfeeding women: 1.3 mg per day
Nonpregnant women ages 19 to 50: .9 mg per day
You don't have to get the recommended amount of copper every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.
Food sources of copper
Here are some good food sources of copper:
- 1 ounce beef liver, pan-fried: 4.1 mg
- six medium oysters, cooked: 2.4 mg
- 3 ounces Alaskan king crabmeat, cooked: 1.0 mg
- 3 ounces blue crabmeat, cooked: 0.7 mg
- 3 ounces clams, cooked: 0.6 mg
- 1 ounce raw cashews: 0.6 mg
- 1 ounce sunflower seeds, dry roasted: 0.5 mg
- 1 ounce hazelnuts, dry roasted : 0.5 mg
- 1 cup lentils, boiled and unsalted: 0.5 mg
- 1 ounce almonds: 0.3 mg
- 1 cup raw white mushrooms, sliced: 0.2 mg
- 2 tablespoons chunky, unsalted peanut butter: 0.2 mg
- 1 ounce semisweet chocolate: 0.2 mg
Note: Don't cook food in unlined copper pots, where the copper may come in direct contact with food. Cooking in these pots may raise your copper intake to toxic levels. (Pots with copper only on the outside or with a copper core bonded to other types of metal – such as stainless steel – are safe to use.)
Should you take a supplement?
No. If you eat a healthy, varied diet, you'll probably get enough copper. It's present in seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grain products, greens, and even cocoa products.
If your diet doesn't include these foods, a good prenatal multivitamin usually includes an adequate amount. It is possible to get too much copper in your diet, so talk with your healthcare provider before taking any additional supplements.
Copper deficiencies are uncommon. Women sometimes come up short in their childbearing years, but you may not notice any signs. If you're concerned that you're not getting enough copper, talk with your healthcare provider before supplementing.