There are substantial changes in maternal skeletal dynamics during pregnancy, lactation, and after lactation. The purpose of this study was to correlate changes in cortical and cancellous bone mass, structure, and dynamics with mechanical properties during and after the first reproductive cycle in rats. Rats were mated and groups were taken at parturition, end of lactation and 8 wk after weaning, and were compared with age-matched, nulliparous controls. Measurements were taken on femoral cortical bone and lumbar vertebral body cancellous bone. At the end of pregnancy, there was an increase in cortical periosteal bone formation and an increase in cortical volume, but a suppression of turnover in cancellous bone with no change in cancellous or cortical mechanical properties. Lactation was associated with a decrease in cortical and cancellous bone strength with a decrease in bone volume, but an increase in turnover on cancellous and endocortical surfaces. After lactation, there was a partial or full restoration of mechanical properties. This study demonstrates substantial changes in bone mechanics that correlate with changes in bone structure and dynamics during the first reproductive cycle in rats. The greatest changes were observed during the lactation period with partial or full recovery in the postlactational period.
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