Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’. It occurs when the struts which create the mesh-like arrangement inside bones become thin, causing bones to become weak and prone to breaking easily following a minor bump or fall. These broken bones are often referred to as fragility fractures. Although fractures can occur in different parts of the body, the wrists, hips and spine are most commonly affected. These fractures lead to the pain linked to osteoporosis. Spinal fractures can also cause loss of height and curvature of the spine.
Osteoporosis During Pregnancy: Things You Need to Know
If you have osteoporosis and you plan on conceiving, you’re probably asking yourself if it is safe to conceive in this condition, or perhaps if osteoporosis affects fertility.
The good news is that osteoporosis does not affect fertility. However, there are still some risk factors associated with conceiving if you suffer from osteoporosis, the chief being that it might put a lot of pressure on your brittle bones. If you do have osteoporosis at child-bearing age, you could suffer from bone fractures, however, osteoporosis or osteopenia (a condition with reduced bone density, but not as severe as osteoporosis) is quite rare in young women. This is because you bones keep building till the age of 30 and reach their peak maturity then. Bone density remains unaffected till about the age of 35, and then comes down gradually, as a natural process of ageing.
One reason of concern about pregnancy, if you suffer from osteoporosis, is that during pregnancy there is considerable loss of calcium in the mother’s body, as the child draws all its nutrients from her. Loss of calcium is at its highest during the last trimester, and gets naturally replenished in the months following birth. This could be quite concerning if you suffer from severe osteoporosis, because it could lead to fractures as your already weakened bones may not be able support your increased weight during pregnancy.
“Osteoporosis itself does not impair fertility, but in severe cases, women can experience fractures in their spine during pregnancy,” says fertility specialist Dr. Mark P. Trolice, MD. Studies have shown that in women suffering from severe osteoporosis, even blunt trauma is enough to cause fractures.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to say if the ability of a woman to carry a baby is affected when she is suffering from severe osteoporosis, but physicians may recommend a cesarean section to avoid a pelvic bone fracture, which might occur with a vaginal delivery. In some cases, the riskiest part is during pushing while in labour, when the link between the two ends of the pubic bone could separate. There might also be the risk of spinal fracture or hip fracture with strenuous activity or lifting. Risks are more during labour rather than throughout the pregnancy itself.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements are essential to keep up the functionality of someone suffering from osteoporosis. If you plan on conceiving, it is a good idea to take a few months before to prepare yourself by doing activities such as yoga, pilates, and swimming which will help strengthen your core and increase strength. Risks aren’t over once you have given birth. There is risk associated with even lifting your child afterwards, when your (already low) calcium count hasn’t been replenished yet. Therefore, it is necessary to take precautionary measures if you want to conceive while suffering from osteoporosis.
The bottom line is that there are risks associated with pregnancy itself, it’s just more for women suffering from osteoporosis. You should consult your physician before going on to conceive.