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Friday, September 18, 1998 Published at 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK


A baffling bone problem

More than a 100 pregnant women will take part in the study

Dr Malveen Kaur: It could be more than just the usual aches and pains
Researchers in Nottingham want to know why osteoporosis sometimes affects women in pregnancy.

The brittle bone disease which is more common in women after the menopause can, in a rare number of cases, afflict younger women going through labour.

[ image: Dr Malveen Kaur: Pregnant women should be protected]
Dr Malveen Kaur: Pregnant women should be protected
It is baffling because the raised hormone levels during pregnancy should protect a woman from bone problems.

"You would have thought that pregnancy, of all times in a woman's life, would be a time when they would not have osteoporosis," said Dr Malveen Kaur, lead researcher at Nottingham City Hospital.

"Basically we have so many oestrogens whizzing around the body that we wouldn't expect the problem because oestrogen should be protective against the condition."

Bone scan

The research team will scan more than a 100 women before, during and after pregnancy.

An ultrasound technique will be used during pregnancy so as not to damage the foetus.

Dr Kaur said it was possible more women were suffering from osteoporosis during pregnancy than was realised. She hypothesised that a large number of women might be suffering from a very mild form of the condition and currently dismiss it as the "normal aches and pains" of pregnancy.

Around 50% of women complain of back ache and leg and groin pain during pregnancy.

It is the first time researchers have looked at the problem by scanning women before they get pregnant. Monitoring them afterwards could also help identify whether breastfeeding can make the problem worse - although Dr Kaur said she was in favour of breastfeeding.

Food supplements

Depending on the outcome, further research might look at diet and whether women should take supplements as part of the pregnancy healthcare programme.

The research team is still looking for women who are planning to have a baby to come forward and take part in the study.

The team can be contacted on 0115-9691169 Ext 46424.

In the over 50 age group, osteoporosis is a growing problem in the UK. One woman in three and one man in 12 is affected. There are over 200,000 fractures each year as a result of osteoporosis.

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