Short gap between pregnancies raises osteoporosis risk

pregnant woman
A new study finds that women who have pregnancies less than a year apart may have a four-fold greater risk for osteoporosis later in life than those who wait at least two years between babies.

Investigators compared the reproductive histories of 239 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis with 298 similar women without the disease. They found that pregnancies which were no more than 12 months apart were linked to a four-fold higher risk of osteoporosis.1

Lead study author Dr. Gulcin Sahin Esroy, a researcher at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, said,

We already know from previous studies that postmenopausal osteoporosis is directly influenced by the pregnancy itself as well as other variables in obstetric history such as breastfeeding and age at first pregnancy, As the results of our study suggest, we believe women should wait two years between pregnancies.”

The study did not find any meaningful difference in osteoporosis risk between women who waited two to three years between pregnancies and women who had a gap of more than five years. In their study, the researchers also analyzed bone tissue of postmenopausal women and found in addition to brief gaps between pregnancies, a first pregnancy before age 27 may also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

It is known that pregnancy places a greater demand on the skeleton’s calcium bank, with skeletal calcium shifting from the mother to the growing baby. Women typically regain calcium between pregnancies once they stop breastfeeding. However, one year between pregnancies may not give the body enough time to recoup, making the women more vulnerable to osteoporosis when they reach menopause later in life.

It is important to maximize bone health before menopause because when reaching menopause (which typically occurs around the age of 50), the changes in hormones cause the body to slow down production of new bone tissue. This places postmenopausal women at higher risk of osteoporosis compared to younger women or men.

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