Recurrent fractured ribs: Pregnancy and Calcium

Patient

Q: A collegue of mine has had 2 broken ribs for over a year now during pregnancy. All tests have come back clear for any degenerative problems and apparently broke 2 more ribs today by coughing. Please advise me as to why the doctors and hospital would have let this go on for so long, and why havent the bones repaired themselve yet? Thank you.

Doctor

A:    Fractures can occur because of direct blows, twisting injuries, or falls. The type of forces or trauma applied to the bone may determine what type of injury that occurs. Some fractures occur without any obvious trauma due to the loss of calcium in bone, may be this must be ruled out in your collegue. Pregnant women who don't consume enough calcium in their diets or through supplements may have this kind of problems. Pregnancy and the first 4 years after menopause are periods when women's bones are most likely to undergo turnover, including demineralization. Calcium is classified as a 'major' mineral. In fact, it is the most abundant mineral in the human body and an important part of our nutritional needs. About 99% of the body's calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. Here, calcium combines with the mineral 'phosphorus' to make our bones and teeth dense and hard. The remaining 1% of calcium circulates in our body fluids and is necessary for muscle contraction, blood clotting, nerve impulse conduction and the regulation of many hormones. Our bones constantly absorb and release calcium. They act like a 'calcium bank' for our body. During childhood and adolescence our bones absorb more calcium than they release (for storage). Pregnant adult women need an extra 400 milligrams of calcium daily. That’s about 50 percent more than recommended for women 25 and older. Nearly all of the extra calcium goes into the baby’s bones. This need can usually be met by consuming more dairy products. If there is not enough calcium in the mother’s diet, the fetus may draw calcium from the mother’s bones. Calcium deficiency in pregnancy may result in osteopenia (decreased bone density) in the mother. I advise to make sure that your collegue is getting enough Calcium and Vitamin D with the diet.

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