Pilot study looks at healthy bone development in teenage mothers

Researchers in The University of Manchester's School of Medicine are undertaking a pilot study into the healthy bone development of teenage mothers, as part of an ongoing commitment to supporting the health of young families.

Dr Mourad Seif, a consultant obstetrician at St Mary's Hospital and expert on teenage pregnancy, and Dr Kate Ward of the School's Clinical Radiology Unit are leading the study. The Unit is a multidisciplinary centre working closely with St. Mary's and Manchester Royal Infirmary, and research into bone development and innovative new treatments is a major part of its activity.

The study has been funded by the National Osteoporosis Society, and is believed to be first into the long-term effects of early pregnancy on bone health. The findings will help inform opinion on whether calcium and other mineral supplements could be particularly beneficial to younger expectant mothers.

The female skeleton contains a greater amount of calcium than the male, believed to be necessary for the demands of pregnancy and breast-feeding. As this continues to develop until the age of about 25, the study seeks to investigate how younger mothers' calcium levels are affected during and after pregnancy.

The team is keen to discover whether continued bone development in teenagers who have been pregnant differs from those who have not, or from the calcium levels of older mothers. Potential differences between mothers who breast feed and those who are bottle-feeding will also be investigated.

Around 70 expectant or new mothers aged 13 -19 are needed for the study, with a similar number of 25 – 35 year old mothers being sought for comparative purposes. A third group, of non-pregnant 13 – 19 year olds to act as a control group, is also being recruited.

Calcium recovery rates after pregnancy will be assessed by scanning both mother and baby to measure bone density and shape, within four weeks of the birth and at intervals of three and nine months after. Volunteers will also be asked to respond to a short questionnaire upon joining the study.

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