I never expected to be watching one of the darkest, funniest, most violent shows in television history and find something out about pregnancy I didn’t know before. And yet, that’s exactly what happened to me this week.
On season two, episode five of the BAFTA award-winning Killing Eve – ‘Smell Ya Later’ – Eve (Sandra Oh) and intelligence officer colleague Jess (Nina Sosanya) are observing an officer interrogate a suspect known as ‘The Ghost’.
Jess is heavily pregnant at this point. She bites into something and lets out a cry of pain, and when Eve asks what happened, Jess tells her it’s her tooth.
“Did you know that babies literally steal the calcium from your teeth?” she adds. “Little bastard is eating me alive.”
Reader, I was flabbergasted. I’m not claiming to know every single thing about pregnancy, of course, but I’ve had two children and would consider myself pretty clued up on things like placentas, umbilical cords, and breastfeeding.
But teeth? Well, that’s new to me. Perhaps it's something Killing Eve writer Emerald Fennel learned while playing Nurse Patsy in BBC's Call the Midwife.
In any case, Sosanya's character is right – babies really do leach calcium. According to research, calcium is crucial for both mothers and their growing babies. It helps the baby grow strong bones, teeth, nerves, heart, and muscles – and also aids the development of a normal heart rhythm.
If the mother doesn’t get enough calcium in her diet, the foetus will “leach” it from her bones, causing calcium deficiency and tooth pain. That’s why pregnant women have to be careful to monitor their own calcium intake, to avoid affecting their own health later on.
And it probably explains why, in Britain, expectant mothers are given a ‘maternity exemption card’ allowing them free prescriptions and dental care.
Pregnant women may also experience tooth pain because of heightened hormones, which makes their blood flow increase in volume. This sends more blood through the gums, which can lead to sensitivity of the teeth.
The things you learn from made-up intelligence officers chasing deadly, well-dressed Russian assassins... I don’t know.
Anyway, here’s a little more information on the amount of calcium you need during pregnancy (to make sure your teeth stay strong):
How much calcium do I need during pregnancy?
Everyone, whether they’re pregnant or not, needs at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium in their daily diet. This is important for women who are expecting, the NHS states, as calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth.
What are the signs of calcium deficiency?
Severe calcium deficiency can show symptoms such as numbness and tingling fingers, convulsions and abnormal heart rhythms.
How do I get more calcium into my diet?
The NHS advises milk, cheese and yoghurt; green leafy vegetables, such as rocket, watercress or curly kale; tofu; soya drinks with added calcium; bread and anything made with fortified flour; and fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards.
So now you know. Thanks Emerald!