Mother’s bones may not return to their original state after childbirth

A new study in macaques has shown that pregnancy can leave an indelible mark on the mother’s skeleton.

After giving birth, female macaques show significantly lower concentrations of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in their bones compared to other macaques.

Although this particular study did not look at humans, the results help to understand how important life events can leave a mark on the skeletal tissues of monkeys in general.

Although they may look like concrete pillars on which fleshy bodies grow, primate bones are surprisingly dynamic. Bones gradually get wider and wider throughout life, and yearly growth fluctuations often depend on lifestyle factors.

Most of us know that bone density can decrease with age, especially after menopause, but throughout life, illness, diet, climate, and pregnancy can leave indelible marks in calcified tissue that can be “read” into the afterlife.

Evidence suggests that during a person’s pregnancy, the mother’s body may actually be depleting calcium from her bones, which are deficient in nutrients, reducing her skeletal mass and density for a time.

When breastfeeding, the mother’s bones are reabsorbed into the bloodstream to produce enough calcium-rich milk. Lost minerals can be easily restored once lactation has ceased, but until then, scientists may have a way to spot instant demise.

In forensic science and archaeology, determining whether a woman is pregnant using only her bones is a controversial work. The marks on the pelvis from birth are called unreliable, and today the methods and interpretations of this work vary greatly. And maybe it’s time to look deep into the bones instead.

“Our research shows that even before fertility stops, the skeleton dynamically responds to changes in reproductive status,” says anthropologist Paola Sereto of New York University. for life.

The study is based on only seven naturally dead rhesus monkeys, four of which are females, but even among this limited group, the femurs showed relative changes that can only be explained by pregnancy and lactation.

The changes observed in calcium and phosphate density were associated with childbirth, while the decrease in magnesium coincided with breastfeeding.

“The results regarding primary changes associated with reproductive function are relevant as the discovery of birth from mineralized tissues remains a largely unexplored area of ​​research with important implications for evolutionary, conservation and archaeological research,” the researchers wrote.

More research is needed, preferably using members of wild primate groups, to see if the same can be said for other animals.

It is possible, say the researchers, “that the reproductive and weaning event signals we found may be masked in wild populations by physiological responses to dietary and environmental changes.”

The study was published in PLUS ONE.

Source: Science Alert.