Pregnancy and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. This is why osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease.

The most common fractures resulting typically occur in the hip spine and wrist. There has yet to be a cause identified but several risk factors have been recognized. There is also no cure for osteoporosis however it is believed to be largely preventable.

Both pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in the body and place extra demands on a womans body. Some of these may have an effect on the bones. During pregnancy, the baby needs plenty of calcium to develop its skeleton. This need is especially great during the last 3 months of the pregnancy. If the mother does not get enough calcium, her baby will draw what it needs from its mothers bones.

Calcium

Studies show that women of childbearing age do not get enough calcium. The good news is that most women do not experience any bone problems during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnant women absorb calcium better from food and supplements than women who are not pregnant. This is especially true during the last half of pregnancy, when the baby is growing quickly and has the greatest need for calcium.

During pregnancy, women produce more estrogen, a hormone that protects bones. Bone mass that may have been lost during pregnancy is usually restored within several months after the birth of the baby. Studies have shown that women often lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass during breastfeeding, although it is rapidly recovered after weaning.

The amount of calcium the mother needs depends on the amount of breast milk produced and how long breastfeeding continues. Some studies suggest that pregnancy may be good for overall bone health. There is some evidence that the more times a woman has been pregnant and carried the baby for at least 28 weeks, the greater her bone density and therefore the lower the risk of fracture.

High Risk

Recent findings have shown that teenage mothers may be at especially high risk for bone loss during pregnancy and for osteoporosis later in life. The unborn babys need to develop its skeleton may compete with the teenage mothers need for calcium to build her own bones, this may compromise her ability to achieve optimal bone mass that will help protect her from osteoporosis later in life. Unlike older women, these mothers are still building much of their total bone mass during their teenage years.

Pregnancy associated osteoporosis is a unique form of the disease and is extremely rare. As of 1996 there were only 80 cases ever reported. The condition is usually found postpartum or during the third trimester. It usually occurs during a womans first pregnancy. It is customarily temporary and does not happen again. Of women who have been affected their chief complaints are back pain, loss of height, and have vertebral fractures.