Studies conducted in Western countries have shown that bone loss associated with pregnancy and breast-feeding is recovered after weaning. However, it is not clear whether recovery takes place after repeated pregnancies followed by prolonged periods of breast-feeding; especially in developing countries where nutritional intake is comparatively low.
This study was designed to examine the effects of multiparity and prolonged breast-feeding on maternal bone mineral density (BMD) in a community-based sample of 210 Sri Lankan women, aged between 46 and 98 years.
BMD of the lumbar spine (L2–L4) and femoral neck were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Reproductive history was recorded by using a questionnaire. Women were, first, divided into groups according to parity (nulliparous, 1–2, 3–4, and 5 or more children), and BMDs in different groups were compared, initially unadjusted and then adjusted for age. Same subjects were subdivided, again, according to the total duration of breast-feeding (0, 1–48, 49–96, and 97 months or more) and similar analysis was carried out.
Women who had 5 or more children and women who had breast-fed for 97 months or more were older than the other women (p < 0.01) but no differences in height, weight or BMI were observed among the groups. Age adjusted BMD at lumbar spine and femoral neck BMDs of women grouped according to parity were not significantly different. Neither was there any difference between lumbar spine or femoral neck BMD in groups based on duration of breast-feeding.
From this population-based study conducted in a developing country, we infer that history of multiparity or prolonged breast-feeding has no detrimental effects on maternal BMD in post-menopausal age.