1. The influence of pregnancy, lactation and weaning on bone mineral density in healthy women was investigated during a 2 year prospective study of 59 pregnant and lactating women from the 18th week of gestation.

2. Bone mineral density was measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry at the non-dominant radius ultra distally and more proximally in the 18th and 37th weeks of gestation, and 0, 3, 6, 12 and 18 months after delivery. Measurements of bone mineral density of the lumbar spine, the proximal femur and the whole body were performed at all dates after delivery.

3. Reappearance of menstruation after delivery averaged 6.1 months; mean lactating period was 8.7 months. During pregnancy and lactation bone mineral density tended to decrease, but different measuring sites showed different patterns of bone mineral density changes. The reduction in the ultra distal radius during pregnancy amounted to 2%, and no further changes were observed here during lactation. After delivery, reduction in mean bone mineral density was most pronounced in the spine (5.2% in 3 months), but the fall in bone mass tended to revert after resumption of menstruation. Bone mineral density was still reduced by 3.3% after 12 months in women with menstruation resumption later than 8 months after delivery. No significant reduction was observed 18 months after delivery. No association with calcium intake, weight changes or initial bone mineral density was observed. High calcium intake did not protect against bone mineral loss in the spine and the femur.

4. Thus it can be concluded that bone loss during pregnancy and lactation took place mainly from the trabecular skeleton. Resumption of menstruation tended to result in a regain of bone mass towards baseline.

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