Pregnancy and Your Bones
All aspects of your body need special care during pregnancy, and your bones are no exception. If you don't get enough calcium, exercise regularly, or maintain a healthy lifestyle, you may have a more difficult time during your pregnancy and your bones, as well as those of your baby, may suffer long-term effects as a result.
Both pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in and place extra demands on a woman's body. Some of these may have an effect on her bones. The good news is that most women do not experience bone problems during pregnancy and breastfeeding. And if their 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 -- for the good health of both the mother and her baby.
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 the pregnancy. If the mother does not get enough calcium, her baby will draw what it needs from its mother's bones. Unfortunately, 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 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 overall bone health. 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, although this is rare. Osteoporosis is bone loss that is serious enough to result in fragile bones and causes increased risk of fracture.
- In many cases, women who develop osteoporosis during pregnancy and breastfeeding will recover lost bone after their pregnancy ends or they stop breastfeeding. It is less clear whether teenage mothers recover lost bone and are able to go on to optimize their bone mass.