Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Bone Health
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, bone health is of even greater concern for women. Adequate amounts of calcium must be taken to ensure not only the mother's bone health, but also the baby's. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are also important for maintaining bone health in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Both pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in and place extra demands on a woman's body. Some of these may have an affect on her bones. The good news is that most women do not experience bone problems during pregnancy and breastfeeding. And if bones are affected during these times, the problem is often easily corrected. Nevertheless, taking care of one's bone health is especially important during pregnancy and when breastfeeding -- both for the health of the mother and her baby.
During pregnancy, the baby growing in the mother's womb needs plenty of calcium to develop its skeleton. This need is especially great during the last three months of the pregnancy. If the mother does not get enough calcium, her baby will draw what it needs from its mother's bones. It can be disconcerting to realize that most women of child-bearing years are not in the habit of getting enough calcium. Fortunately (unless a mother is still a teenager), pregnancy appears to help protect a woman's calcium reserves in several ways:
- Pregnant women absorb calcium better from food and supplements than do 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. There is some evidence that the 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 and/or breastfeeding, but 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 and breastfeeding will recover lost bone after their pregnancy ends or when they stop breastfeeding. It is less clear whether teenage mothers recover lost bone and are able to go on to optimize their bone mass.