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Duration of lactation shown to affect bone density of the mother; calcium supplements may be beneficial

Posted:  Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Going by the results of a new study, it is imperative that lactating mothers safeguard their bones. Results of a new study find that maternal bone density reduces after childbirth, however only in women who lactate for at least 4 months or more.

This was the findings from a PhD thesis conducted at the University of Gothenburg. The study examined 95 women for 18 months after childbirth. They were assessed for maternal bone density and vitamin D status at every appointment. The authors hypothesised that women lactating for long periods may be vitamin D deficient due to its presence in breast milk.

However, the results of the study revealed that no change in the vitamin D status in a year after childbirth or with the duration of lactation. Most interestingly, they found that the bone density especially in the lumbar spine, hip and shin of the mother decreased by 4% after 4 months of lactation. They found that if lactation lasted for 9 months, then the bone density was below baseline even at 18 months.

Greater body weight was shown to have a protective effect on the bone density. "Our findings also suggest that high calcium intake might have a protective effect against bone density changes." The researchers suggest further research to understand if women were able to recoup their bone density after initiation of complementary feeds or if it had a bearing on the future risk of fractures.

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