The arrival of a child is not only a real psychological upheaval, but also leads to significant physiological changes for women. Pregnancy can leave an indelible mark on the human skeleton, even going so far as to modify bone density, as revealed by a new study on macaques published in PLOS One and relayed by ScienceAlert.
This observation, although only carried out on seven rhesus macaques who died naturally, including four females, highlights a certain evolution of the bones of the femur which can be explained exclusively by pregnancy and lactation. It is clear that the two monkeys that had reproduced had a dissimilar bone composition, with a lower content of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
According to the research team behind the study, “The observed mutations in calcium and phosphorus density are related to childbirth, while the decrease in magnesium content coincides with lactation. These results undoubtedly underline bone resorption linked to reproduction.”
Although this study does not focus on humans, the conclusions drawn make it possible to understand how significant events in a life leave their mark on the skeleton. However, additional analyzes will be necessary to know if the same is true for other animals. “The detection of parturition from mineralized tissues is a growing field but remains largely unexplored”lament the scientists.
The magic of the human body
Just like their primate cousins, humans see their anatomy change with the arrival of a small being. During pregnancy, the mother’s body can extract calcium from her bones to transfer it to the fetus to ensure its growth if this element is consumed in insufficient quantities. Thus, the mass, composition and density of its skeleton are reduced for an indefinite period. This same phenomenon occurs during lactation, but the adverse effects cease when lactation stops.
This bone density can also decrease with age, and more specifically after menopause. Because throughout life, several factors influence the modification of the calcified tissues of the woman: pregnancy, illnesses, the diet she adopts or the climate of the geographical area where she lives. These variations can be detected after the death of the subject.
This new research comes to upset forensic medicine and archeology which, until now, observed the pelvis of women to determine if they had been pregnant. This unreliable and controversial technique therefore leaves room for the analysis of the composition of the bones.
If we knew that women were ready to do a lot to ensure the well-being of their child, we did not know that they would do it to the bone.