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I've given birth to 5 children. Am I at greater risk for osteoporosis?

 

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A.

During pregnancy, it is always important that a woman get enough calcium for both herself and growing baby. Because of this important need for calcium, studies have been done to learn if pregnancy causes a woman to have a greater chance of having low bone density or osteoporosis. Most studies show that while some bone loss may occur during pregnancy, a woman usually regains it after giving birth.

According to research studies, women who have been pregnant more than one time have no lasting harm to their bones. These studies include women in the U.S. and other countries. One reason is that women absorb more calcium during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. This additional absorption of calcium helps to meet much of the developing baby’s calcium needs. Another change during pregnancy that may protect bones is an estrogen surge during the third trimester. Also, a woman carries an increased weight load due to the weight gain of pregnancy.

In fact, studies show that having children, even as many as 10, does not increase a woman’s chance of getting osteoporosis later in life. Research even suggests that each additional pregnancy provides some protection from osteoporosis and broken bones. Women who have never been pregnant might actually be at higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis compared to women who have given birth according to some findings.

For women who had pregnancies in their teens, the effects on bone health later in life are still not certain. Teens have not yet reached peak bone mass. This is the point at which they have the greatest amount of bone they will ever have. Additional studies are needed to find out if teen pregnancies can affect future bone health.
Breastfeeding for the recommended 6-12 months has great health benefits for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding even longer does not appear to cause lasting influence on bone health.

All women who are pregnant or nursing need to get enough calcium, vitamin D and appropriate exercise to keep their bones healthy. Pregnant or breastfeeding women age 19 years and older need 1,000 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU of vitamin D every day. Pregnant or breastfeeding teens age 18 years and younger need 1,300 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU of vitamin D every day.

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