Reproductive correlates of bone mass in elderly women



Results from previous studies of reproductive factors and bone density have been conflicting; some demonstrate a beneficial effect, but others show a detrimental effect on bone density. The present study investigates the association of parity, lactation, and menstruation with radial bone density in 2230 white women, 65 years of age and older. Bone density was assessed by single-photon absorptiometry. Linear multiple regression was utilized to determine if reproductive factors were associated with radial bone density. The number of births, duration of menstrual bleeding, age at menarche, and years menstruating were significant independent predictors of postmenopausal bone density of the radius. A 1.4% increase in distal radius bone density was observed with each additional birth. Women who began menstruation at age 9 had 6.3% higher bone density than women who began at age 16. Women who menstruated for 3 days during each menstrual cycle had 2.8% less distal radius bone density than women who bled for 7 days. Each decade of menstruation was associated with a 2% greater distal radius bone density. No difference in bone density was demonstrated for women who breast-fed and women who did not. Length of the menstrual cycle, amount of menstrual flow, and irregularity of the menstrual cycle were not significantly associated with radial bone mineral density. In conclusion, pregnancy and menstruation are associated with postmenopausal bone density of the radius.