As you already know, the nutritional needs of pregnant and nursing mothers are increasing. This includes the need for calcium. This happens because the baby needs calcium intake for growth and bone development obtained from the mother. In addition, pregnancy and breastfeeding also cause changes in the body of the mother, one of which is a change in bone metabolism. Bone density during pregnancy and breastfeeding can change. Can this be fixed?
What are the bones of the mother during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, the mother provides all the nutrients a baby needs through her bloodstream, including calcium. Yes, a baby in the womb during pregnancy requires a lot of nutrients for growth and development. Calcium is needed for the growth of baby's bones and teeth in the womb. Pregnant women get calcium from the food or supplements they consume, then the calcium is transferred to the baby via the placenta.
However, when the calcium intake that the mother gets from food cannot meet the needs of the baby, the mother's body will take calcium from the mother's bones. This can cause reduced bone density in the mother. This is why pregnancy can affect the health of the mother's bones. So that calcium from your bones is not "taken" by the baby in the womb, then you must meet your calcium needs during pregnancy.
READ ALSO: 8 Nutrients Most Needed During Pregnancy
So, you don't need to worry about your bone density during pregnancy as long as you can meet your bone needs. But, in fact pregnancy can help protect your bone health by:
- Pregnant women can absorb calcium from food and supplements more than women who are not pregnant. Although between pregnant women and nonpregnant women both consume 20 mg of calcium source food, the body of pregnant women is more able to absorb more calcium (18 mg, for example), compared to non-pregnant women (who are only able to absorb 15 mg of calcium, for example).
- During pregnancy also more women produce the hormone estrogen, where this hormone is able to protect the bones.
What about mother's bones during breastfeeding?
When breastfeeding, the mother's calcium needs are still high. This is because calcium is needed to produce milk. However (just like during pregnancy), maternal calcium needs that are not met from food or supplements that mothers consume will cause maternal bone density to decrease. Because, lack of calcium to produce milk will later be taken from the bones of the mother.
Conditions while breastfeeding may be somewhat different from during pregnancy. Bone density in nursing mothers may be reduced more because the mother's body produces less estrogen (which can protect bones). Research shows that breastfeeding mothers usually experience a loss of bone density of 3-5%.
If you don't want to keep your bone density during breastfeeding, you have to meet your calcium needs. The amount of calcium a mother needs during breastfeeding depends on the amount of milk produced by the mother and how long the mother is breastfeeding her baby.
READ ALSO: 3 Food Menu Recipes to Improve Bone Health
Can maternal bone density be reduced during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Although maternal bone density can be lost during pregnancy and breastfeeding, take it easy because it is only temporary. Several studies have proven that the bone density of the mother will return within about 6 months after weaning or when the mother has not given milk to her baby.
One of them was a study conducted by Salari and Abdollahi in 2014 which showed that pregnancy has a protective effect on bones, especially if followed by breastfeeding. Research by Hilary Flower also says that recovery of maternal bone density begins when the baby is introduced to solid food (usually at the age of 6 months) and at the age of infants who have turned 12 months the mother's bone density has fully returned, quoted from Kellymom. So, bone health is not an obstacle for your baby to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tips for maintaining bone health during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Your bone density can be reduced during pregnancy when you cannot meet your calcium needs. If this happens continuously, this might cause you to experience osteoporosis in your old age. However, don't worry because you can still maintain your bone health. How to?
Meet your calcium needs
According to the 2013 Nutrition Adequacy Ratio, pregnant and lactating women need a calcium intake of 1200-1300 mg per day. You can get calcium from milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, kale), fish with bones (like sardines and anchovies), sometimes almonds, and others. If you feel that your calcium intake from food does not meet your needs, your doctor may prescribe a calcium supplement for you. Consult with your doctor whether you need calcium supplements or not during pregnancy and breastfeeding, also ask how much additional calcium you need from supplements.
Do regular exercise
Regular exercise, especially exercise that holds weight (gravity), can help you maintain bone strength. Some types of exercise that you can do during pregnancy and breastfeeding are walking, climbing stairs, jogging, and dancing.
Apply a healthy lifestyle
Keep yourself away from cigarettes and also cigarette smoke and alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Smoking can have a devastating effect on the health of your bones, heart and lungs. Likewise with alcohol that is bad for your bones.
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Reviewed date: August 15, 2017 | Last Edited: August 15, 2017
Niams.nih.gov. (2016). Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Bone Health . [online] Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/Bone_Health/Pregnancy/default.asp [Accessed Dec. 8. 2016].
Womenshealth.gov. (2012). Osteoporosis fact sheet | womenshealth.gov . [online] Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/osteoporosis.html#j [Accessed Dec. 8. 2016].
Salari, P. and Abdollahi, M. (2014). The Influence of Pregnancy and Lactation on Maternal Bone Health: A Systematic Review. Journal Family and Reproductive Health , 8 (4): 135–148. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266784/ [Accessed Dec. 8. 2016].
Bonyata, Kelly. (2011). Nutrition for mom while pregnant & breastfeeding or tandem breastfeeding. [online] Available at: http://kellymom.com/tandem-faq/04momnutrition/ [Accessed Dec. 8. 2016].