Nulliparity and fracture risk in older women: the study of osteoporotic fractures

J Bone Miner Res. 2003 May;18(5):893-9. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.2003.18.5.893.


Whether nulliparity increases fracture risk is unclear from prior studies, which are limited by small samples or lack of measured bone mineral density. No study has evaluated whether the effect of parity differs by skeletal site. We prospectively analyzed the relationship of parity to the risk of incident nontraumatic hip, spine, and wrist fractures in 9704 women aged 65 years or older participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures to determine if parity reduces postmenopausal fracture risk, and if so, if this risk reduction is (1) greater at weight-bearing skeletal sites and (2) independent of bone mineral density. Parity was ascertained by self-report. Incident hip and wrist fractures were determined by physician adjudication of radiology reports (mean follow-up, 9.8 years) and spine fractures by morphometric criteria on serial radiographs. The relationship of parity to hip and wrist fracture was assessed by proportional hazards models. Spine fracture risk was evaluated by logistic regression. Compared with parous women, nulliparous women (n = 1835, 19%) had an increased risk of hip and spine, but not wrist, fractures. In multivariate models, parity remained a significant predictor only for hip fracture. Nulliparous women had a 44% increased risk of hip fractures independent of hip bone mineral density (hazards ratio, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.17-1.78). Among parous women, each additional birth reduced hip fracture risk by 9% (p = 0.03). Additionally, there were no differences in mean total hip, spine, or radial bone mineral density values between nulliparous and parous women after multivariate adjustment. In conclusion, childbearing reduces hip fracture risk by means that may be independent of hip bone mineral density.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / complications
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology*
  • Hip Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / complications*
  • Parity*
  • Spinal Fractures / complications
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Wrist Injuries / complications
  • Wrist Injuries / epidemiology*