Bone Mineral Density Changes Associated With Pregnancy, Lactation, and Medical Treatments in Premenopausal Women and Effects Later in Life

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2021 Oct;30(10):1416-1430. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2020.8989. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


Bone mineral density (BMD) changes during the life span, increasing rapidly during adolescence, plateauing in the third decade of life, and subsequently entering a phase of age-related decline. In women, menopause leads to accelerated bone loss and an increase in fracture risk. Between peak bone mass attainment and menopause, BMD is generally stable and the risk of fracture is typically low. This time period is marked by life events such as pregnancy and lactation, which transiently decrease BMD, yet their long-term effects on fracture risk are less certain. BMD may also be altered by exposure to medications that affect bone metabolism (e.g., contraceptives, glucocorticoids, antidiabetic medications, antiepileptic drugs). Although oral contraceptives are often believed to be neutral with regard to bone health, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists have been associated with decreases in BMD. Development of newer medical therapies, principally GnRH antagonists (e.g., ASP1707, elagolix, linzagolix, relugolix), for treatment of endometriosis-associated pelvic pain and heavy menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids has renewed interest in the short- and long-term impacts of changes in BMD experienced by premenopausal women. It is important to understand how these drugs influence BMD and put the findings into context with regard to measurement variability and naturally occurring factors that influence bone health. This review summarizes what is known about the effects on bone health pregnancy, lactation, and use of DMPA, GnRH agonists, and GnRH antagonists in premenopausal women and potential consequences later in life. identifier: NCT03213457.

Keywords: bone loss; densitometry; depot medroxyprogesterone; fracture risk; gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist; osteoporosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles*
  • Lactation
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate
  • Pregnancy
  • Sulfones


  • Imidazoles
  • Sulfones
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate
  • opigolix

Associated data