Maternal Mineral and Bone Metabolism During Pregnancy, Lactation, and Post-Weaning Recovery

Physiol Rev. 2016 Apr;96(2):449-547. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00027.2015.


During pregnancy and lactation, female physiology adapts to meet the added nutritional demands of fetuses and neonates. An average full-term fetus contains ∼30 g calcium, 20 g phosphorus, and 0.8 g magnesium. About 80% of mineral is accreted during the third trimester; calcium transfers at 300-350 mg/day during the final 6 wk. The neonate requires 200 mg calcium daily from milk during the first 6 mo, and 120 mg calcium from milk during the second 6 mo (additional calcium comes from solid foods). Calcium transfers can be more than double and triple these values, respectively, in women who nurse twins and triplets. About 25% of dietary calcium is normally absorbed in healthy adults. Average maternal calcium intakes in American and Canadian women are insufficient to meet the fetal and neonatal calcium requirements if normal efficiency of intestinal calcium absorption is relied upon. However, several adaptations are invoked to meet the fetal and neonatal demands for mineral without requiring increased intakes by the mother. During pregnancy the efficiency of intestinal calcium absorption doubles, whereas during lactation the maternal skeleton is resorbed to provide calcium for milk. This review addresses our current knowledge regarding maternal adaptations in mineral and skeletal homeostasis that occur during pregnancy, lactation, and post-weaning recovery. Also considered are the impacts that these adaptations have on biochemical and hormonal parameters of mineral homeostasis, the consequences for long-term skeletal health, and the presentation and management of disorders of mineral and bone metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Phosphorus Compounds / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Weaning


  • Phosphorus Compounds
  • Calcium