Osteoporosis in Young Pregnant Mothers

When you think of osteoporosis the image of an older female stoop over, comes to mind, but young women get osteoporosis too.

Young woman can get osteoporosis from eating disorders, early menopause, female athlete triad and pregnancy and lactation induced bone loss.

Pregnancy and lactation induced osteoporosis (PLO) has no known cause, so it's also referred to as idiopathic osteoporosis.

Young women can be diagnosed with this disorder if they are fracturing pre-delivery, during the delivery and post-delivery.   There aren't too many doctors that are aware of this disorder so it's crucial to find one that has knowledge of this and knows how to treat this with its multiple fractures and considerable pain.

What is PLO?

When a young woman fractures bones during pregnancy, delivery, or post-delivery they're generally thought to have this rare disorder called pregnancy and lactation induce osteoporosis.

What is the cause of PLO?

PLO maybe caused by certain medications that cause bone loss, lifestyle choices that promote bone loss, chronic diseases and the increased amount of bone metabolism that occurs normally during pregnancy.   If a woman has a low calcium reserve, the developing baby puts strains on this calcium bank and will pull calcium from the bones if enough reserve is not present.   In most pregnant women a healthy diet will provide enough calcium and vitamin D for the baby, but in some women this dietary calcium and D is not enough and they need to supplement with both of these nutrients along with a healthy diet. One other theory is that these women did not reach their peak bone mass prior to getting pregnant so they have low bone mass already that could get worse from the nutritional demands of the baby.

How is PLO diagnosed?

This disorder is generally diagnosed after the baby is born, with a few exceptions.   Osteoporosis is a silent disease until a fracture occurs, so those with this disorder can be diagnosed at this time.  A fracture pre-delivery, during delivery and post-delivery generally leads to a diagnosis of PLO.

After the baby is born these women may have x-rays, scans or a bone mineral density test which would identify a fracture.

The symptoms can be severe spinal pain, pain at the location of other broken bones, like wrist, hip and ribs.

How is PLO treated?

If you've developed a fracture during or after a pregnancy bed rest is one option for treatment.   Generally, fractures heal on their own without any medical intervention.   If the mother has severe pain from a fracture she'll have to discuss treatment options with her doctor while breast-feeding and after.   Safe treatments may be aqua therapy, a TENS unit or if no longer breast-feeding, a pain medication.   Some doctors may want the mother to increase her calcium and vitamin D intake if she is found to be low in these two test levels.

Can I breast-feed with PLO?

Breast-feeding is a very personal decision, so any decision about this must come from the mother.   Some doctors recommend that the mother stop breast-feeding because this type of feeding draws calcium from the mothers' skeleton which slows down the fracture healing.

If you think you may have this condition, it would be wise to seek the advice of a specialist in this area of metabolic bone disorder.


Osteoporosis Australia. (9-2012) Pregnancy and Osteoporosis. Retrieved 12-13-2014. From:   http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/sites/default/files/files/osteoporosispregnancy.pdf

Maria Luisa Bianchi, MD.   (10-14-2011) Osteoporosis during Pregnancy and Lactation. Retrieved 12-10-2014. From:     http://www.obgyn.net/osteoporosis/osteoporosis-during-pregnancy-and-lactation

Carlos Cure.   (10-10-1998) Osteoporosis, Pregnancy and Lactation.   The Lancet.   Retrieved 12-8-2014. From: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2805%2960572-7/fulltext