, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 41-46

Changes in Bone Mineral Density During Pregnancy and Postpartum: Prospective Data on Five Women

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Areal bone mineral density (BMD, g/cm2) of five healthy women (aged 26–30 years) was measured at the lumbar spine, right femoral neck and dominant distal radius with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry before pregnancy, immediately after delivery, 1 month after the resumption of menses and 1 year thereafter. Because of the small number of subjects, only individual changes in BMD that were greater than 2√2 times the short-term in vivo precision were considered as significant changes. To obtain a further perspective, the reproduction-related BMD changes were compared with twice the standard deviation (SD) of the BMD changes in healthy premenopausal women (about ± 5%), and with the SD of the BMD in a cross-sectional sample of young healthy women. The duration of postpartum amenorrhea (PPA) and of lactation in our subjects ranged from about 2 months to 1 year and from 5 months to almost 2 years, respectively. No clear association between PPA and lactation could be seen. The magnitudes of reproduction-related BMD changes in general seemed not to differ substantially from about ± 5% variability in BMD changes in healthy nonpregnant and nonlactating women. There was, however, some tendency toward systematic bone loss at the lumbar spine (about –3%) during pregnancy and at the femoral neck during PPA (about –5% as compared with prepregnancy data). Some individuals can yet show large, systematic bone losses comparable to 1 SD in magnitude. The site-specific reproduction-induced bone loss and consequent recovery are apparently multifactorial phenomena that may be related not only to duration and magnitude of lactation and/or duration of postpartum amenorrhea, but also to prevailing biomechanical and dietary factors, and other yet unknown individually modulated factors.

Received: 31 March 1998 / Accepted: 25 November 1998