During pregnancy, the baby growing in its mother’s womb needs plenty of calcium to develop its skeleton. This need is especially great during the last 3 months of pregnancy. If the mother doesn’t get enough calcium, her baby will draw what it needs from the mother’s bones. So, it is disconcerting that most women of childbearing years are not in the habit of getting enough calcium. Fortunately, pregnancy appears to help protect most women’s calcium reserves in several ways:
Pregnant women absorb calcium from food and supplements better 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.
Any bone mass lost during pregnancy is typically restored within several months after the baby’s delivery (or several months after breastfeeding is stopped).
Some studies suggest that pregnancy may be good for bone health overall.
|More times a woman has been pregnant (for at least 28 weeks), the greater her bone density and the lower her risk of fracture.|
In some cases, women develop osteoporosis during pregnancy or breastfeeding, although this is rare.
Osteoporosis is bone loss that is serious enough to result in fragile bones and increased risk of fracture.
In many cases, women who develop osteoporosis during pregnancy or breastfeeding will recover lost bone after childbirth or after they stop breastfeeding. It is less clear whether teenage mothers can recover lost bone and go on to optimize their bone mass.
Teen pregnancy and bone health
Teenage mothers may be at especially high risk for bone loss during pregnancy and for osteoporosis later in life. Unlike older women, teenage mothers are still building much of their own total bone mass. The unborn baby’s need to develop its skeleton may compete with the young mother’rdquo;s need for calcium to build her own bones, compromising her ability to achieve optimal bone mass that will help protect her from osteoporosis later in life. To minimize any bone loss, pregnant teens should be especially careful to get enough calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and Bone Health
Breastfeeding also affects a mother’s bones.
|Studies have shown that women often lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass during breastfeeding, although they recover it rapidly after weaning.|
This bone loss may be caused by the growing baby’s increased need for calcium, which is drawn from the mother’s bones. The amount of calcium the mother needs depends on the amount of breast milk produced and how long breastfeeding continues. Women also may lose bone mass during breastfeeding because they’re producing less estrogen, which is the hormone that protects bones. The good news is that, like bone lost during pregnancy, bone lost during breastfeeding is usually recover...