The one thing about babies is that they take everything they can. Well, we can’t blame them really – they need to get the best nutritional basis for life they can right from the get-go. During pregnancy they are growing speedily and greedily; everything is preparing for the world, and bones are a key part of all this activity. Therefore, moms-to-be really should be aware of health, strength, and providing the best nutrients they can.
Pointers to keep in mind – and in body
- The majority of bone development in the human foetus occurs during the third trimester, requiring calcium – a lot of calcium, along with Vitamin D. So moms need to focus on these two elements of growth with some motivation.
- A good dose of sunshine while pregnant is vitally important – because those little bones just don’t develop the strength they need without Vitamin D, which is the most common insufficiency during pregnancy. The offspring of mothers supplemented with vitamin D during pregnancy have higher bone mass at birth than those of mothers who were not supplemented.
- Studies have also shown that calcium is an under-consumed nutrient among pregnant women. There are many ways to alleviate this with a wide variety of available supplements.
- Strategies to achieve the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D include consumption of fortified foods, broadening the range of fortified dairy products, and in some cases, the use of a Vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin which includes Vitamin D. Calcium intake of dairy or fortified products that are important sources of calcium, must be increased during pregnancy.
- Recommendations for pregnant women include taking a supplement containing 400 IU Vitamin D each day throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding. On the other hand, care should be taken with Vitamin A because too much of that could be harmful to the foetus.
The basis of bones in childhood
- Osteoporosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality through its association with age-related fractures. Although efforts in fracture prevention have been directed at retarding the rate of age-related bone loss, and thus reducing the frequency and severity of trauma among elderly people – there is now growing evidence that peak bone mass in childhood is an important contributor to bone strength during later life.
- Many factors influence the accumulation of bone mineral during childhood and adolescence, including heredity, gender, diet, physical activity, endocrine status, and risk factors such as cigarette smoking.
- In addition to these factors during childhood, evidence also shows that risks of fractures might actually be set in the map of life as early as pregnancy. Studies have demonstrated a relationship between birthweight, weight in infancy, and adult bone mass.
- Low birth size and poor childhood growth, are directly linked to the later risk of bone fracture. The optimisation of maternal nutrition and growth during pregnancy should be recognised as vitally important as an early preventative strategy against osteoporotic fracture, even though this possibility may lie well in the future of the child’s life.
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.
Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za