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Pregnancy and lactation, a challenge for the skeleton

Winter, Elizabeth M and Ireland, Alex and Butterfield, Natalie Clare and Haffner-Luntzer, Melanie and Horcajada, Marie-Noelle and Veldhuis-Vlug, Annegreet and Oei, Ling and Colaianni, Graziana and Bonnet, Nicolas (2020) Pregnancy and lactation, a challenge for the skeleton. Endocrine Connections. ISSN 2049-3614

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Abstract

In this review we discuss skeletal adaptations to the demanding situation of pregnancy and lactation. Calcium demands are increased during pregnancy and lactation, and this is effectuated by a complex series of hormonal changes. The changes in bone structure at the tissue and whole bone level observed during pregnancy and lactation appear to largely recover over time. The magnitude of the changes observed during lactation may relate to the volume and duration of breastfeeding and return to regular menses. Studies examining long-term consequences of pregnancy and lactation suggest that there are small, site-specific benefits to bone density, and that bone geometry may also be affected. Pregnancy- and lactation-induced osteoporosis (PLO) is a rare disease for which the pathophysiological mechanism is as yet incompletely known; here we discuss and speculate on the possible roles of genetics, oxytocin, sympathetic tone and bone marrow fat. Finally, we discuss fracture healing during pregnancy and lactation and the effects of estrogen on this process.

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