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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5 Suppl):1312S-6S.

Maternal calcium metabolism and bone mineral status.

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  • 1MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and MRC Keneba, The Gambia.


Human pregnancy is associated with major changes in calcium and bone metabolism and in bone mineral status before and after gestation. The changes are compatible with the uptake and mobilization of calcium by the maternal skeleton to meet the high requirement for fetal growth and for breast-milk production. Breast-feeding is accompanied by decreases in bone mineral status, increases in bone turnover rate, and reductions in urinary calcium excretion. These effects are reversed during and after weaning, and, in several skeletal regions, bone mineral content ultimately exceeds that measured after delivery. By 3-6 mo after lactation, the postpartum changes in bone mineral status of women who breast-feed largely match those of women who do not, regardless of the duration of lactation. No consistent picture has emerged of the effect of pregnancy on bone mineral status, although increases in bone turnover, calcium absorption, and urinary calcium excretion are well recognized. Events before conception may modify the bone response, particularly if conception occurs within a few months of a previous pregnancy or lactation. There is no evidence that the changes observed during lactation reflect inadequacies in calcium intake. Supplementation studies have shown that neither the bone response nor breast-milk calcium secretion is modified by increases in calcium supply during lactation, even in women with a low calcium intake. The situation in pregnancy is less clear. Calcium nutrition may influence the health of the pregnant woman, her breast-milk calcium concentration, and the bone mineralization and blood pressure of her infant, but these possibilities require formal testing.

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