Having a baby permanently changes the composition of a woman’s bones, a new study suggests.
A team of anthropologists has found that female primates who have given birth have lower levels of calcium and phosphorus than those who have not reproduced.
Their bones also experienced a significant drop in magnesium as a result of breastfeeding.
However, while other studies show that a loss of calcium and phosphorus could lead to weaker bones, these new findings do not consider the health implications of decreasing these minerals.
Instead, the work illuminates how dynamic bones are, changing and evolving with life events.
Dr Shara Bailey, a New York University anthropologist and co-author of the study, said, “A bone is not a static, dead part of the skeleton.
“It continually adapts and responds to physiological processes.”
It has long been established that menopause can have an effect on women’s bones, but the effect of childbirth is less studied.
To gather these results, the researchers studied the growth rate of lamellar bone in the thigh of male and female primates.
Lamellar bone is the main type of bone in an adult skeleton and is ideal for this type of investigation, as it evolves over time and leaves biological markers of these changes.
Dr Paola Cerrito, a PhD student in New York University’s Department of Anthropology and College of Dentistry and a research leader, said, “Our findings provide further evidence of the profound impact that reproduction has on the body. female, further demonstrating that the skeleton is not a static but a dynamic organ that changes with the events of life ”.
To study these bones, the researchers used electron microscopy and energy dispersion X-ray analysis to examine the chemical composition of the bone tissue samples.
This method allowed the scientists to work out the changes in calcium, phosphorus, oxygen, magnesium and sodium levels.
The primates they studied lived at Sabana Seca Field Station in Puerto Rico and died of natural causes.
Dr Cerrito said: “Our research shows that even before the cessation of fertility, the skeleton dynamically responds to changes in reproductive status.
“Furthermore, these findings reaffirm the significant impact that childbirth has on a female organism: simply, evidence of reproduction is” written in the bones “for life.”
The study was published in the journal PLO ONE.