Pregnancy associated osteoporosis

Osteoporosis associated with pregnancy is a rare condition when bones break (fracture) easily, usually in the spine, or occasionally the hip, around the time a woman is giving birth, causing pain and disability.

These broken bones heal in the normal way and usually women recover and return to their previous quality of life. However, when bones break it can be frightening and confusing for the women affected, and their families.

What causes pregnancy associated osteoporosis?

It is not clear why some women suddenly develop fragile skeletons at the time of pregnancy. Various explanations have been put forward.

  • One is that pregnancy triggers a sudden unusual reaction in a normal skeleton
  • Another is that a woman starts off with a low peak bone mass (thin bones) or another bone disease, and normal bone loss in pregnancy causes further bone thinning and results in broken bones.

However, research has so far failed to provide clear answers.

Women with osteoporotic fractures associated with pregnancy seem to regulate calcium and hormone levels in their bodies (although this may be a problem in a few pregnancies) and they do not seem to have any underlying bone disease such as osteogenesis imperfecta.

It has not been shown in research studies that having low bone density prior to pregnancy will result in faster bone loss or fractures during or after pregnancy.

Osteoporotic fractures associated with pregnancy, though rare, seem to be most common in first pregnancies although some women have experienced fractures in second or third pregnancies after a normal first pregnancy.

Commonly, bones seem to break when a woman gives birth or up to eight to twelve weeks following delivery. There does not seem to be one particular age when women are more at risk.

If you have pregnancy associated osteoporosis

If pregnancy associated osteoporosis has affected you, then you may have a number of questions in your mind.

  • Why did my bones lose strength and break?
  • Should I have a medical treatment?
  • Can I have more babies?
  • Should I breastfeed?
  • How can I prevent this happening in another pregnancy?
  • Will I be affected by osteoporosis and fractures when I am older?

Our booklet on pregnancy associated osteoporosis tries to answer these questions for you.