Thursday, May 5, 2011

If you are a mom, you NEED to read this...

As I briefly alluded to last week,  my little world has been rocked by a totally unexpected medical diagnosis.  Don't worry, no cancer or anything like that.  : )

If you've been reading here since last year you might remember that I spent a significant portion of 2010 limping and on crutches, then eventually having surgery to correct a femoral neck stress fracture in my hip. I recovered from that and began running again in December.  In February I was trail running with Tom and Jake, twisted my ankle and ended up with two compound fractures.  sigh.  So it was back on crutches and in a lovely "boot" for another six weeks.
nope. absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I *had* to include some spring prettiness, 'cause that's how I roll.
At that point I questioned my orthopedic doctor pretty pointedly about the possibility that I might have low bone density.  He repeatedly reassured me that the fractures I experienced are very common... at least the ankle fractures.  The stress fracture in my hip, I was told, was merely the result of my overly-zealous triathlon training.  Now I'll readily admit that I tend to overdo things sometimes, and I do know that my running form needed some work, but three fractures in a year?  Honestly!!!?

I already knew that my vitamin D levels were pretty low~ in the low 20s (Vitamin D is critical for proper bone density and many doctors would tell you that somewhere around 90 is much more optimal), so I took matters into my own hands and asked my primary care physician to order a bone density scan for me.
more random springtime pretties!
The DXA bone densitometry showed that I have significant osteopenia in my left hip (they didn't scan the right hip due to the three screws there).  The bone density is so low there that I was placed at "moderate" risk of a fracture.  Oh my!  I suddenly felt like a young active person trapped in a fragile 80 year-old body!

My orthopedic doctor told me that I really shouldn't be out riding my triathlon bike in traffic and zipping down hills at 30mph.  Anyone who rides bikes would tell you that a bike accident isn't a matter of "if," it's a matter of "when." He explained that if I wrecked at this point I am pretty much guaranteed another fracture.  If I would fracture my hip there is a significant chance that I would need a hip replacement.

Unfortunately hip replacements don't last forever and you can't run with a hip replacement either.  sigh.
so, um, yep.  I even think that dandy-lions are pretty this time of year...
Now I'm not sharing this to garner any sympathy~ although I'd definitely take some!  ; )  The real reason I felt compelled to share this is that I suspect that there are other women reading this who could benefit from what I am learning about bone health.

Please understand, I am not a medical professional, just a mom who *really, really* likes to be active with her family and is determined to do my best to figure this out.  Plus I'd love to help someone else avoid the problems that I am facing!

Are you at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia?
Here are the typically listed risk factors for osteoporosis:

  • being a woman~ of thin or small body frame
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • cigarette smoking
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • poor diet
  • poor general health
  • malabsorption from issues like Celiac Disease
  • low estrogen levels~ women who have gone through menopause
  • hyperthyroidism
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • long-term use of certain medications like steroids
  • living a sedentary lifestyle
Here's the sobering thing:  none of those risk factors apply to me... except the vitamin D deficiency. None of them!  So here's the deal... the one thing that is left off of "risk factor lists" like the one above is this: women who have had multiple pregnancies and breastfed as well.  I have had 15 pregnancies... 12 that went to term (three miscarriages) and breastfed each of our babies for an average of 12 months each.

Basically, if your body doesn't have enough calcium for immediate needs, it will leach what it needs from your bones.  That's the sobering truth.  For me, 23 years of taking prenatal vitamins pretty much nonstop wasn't enough to keep my bones healthy.  Twenty-three years of eating a "whole foods" diet wasn't enough either.  Neither was it enough for me to exercise, hard, pretty much every day during that time period.  

Now granted, each of us has our own "weak link" and this might be mine and not yours.  Please don't think you are immune to weak bones simply because you don't match the risk factors or because you are young and that issue simply isn't "on your radar."

Did you know that once a woman goes through menopause she can count on losing an additional 20-30% of bone density in a span of only three years?  Yikes!  I'm already ridiculously low and I haven't yet gone through menopause!  I keep having mental images of me as an amoeba!  
chives beginning to bloom in my herb garden
I'm writing this in hopes of helping other women who are just beginning to have children avoid the low bone density issues that I am dealing with.  In addition, I want to encourage other "moms of many" to consider having a baseline bone density scan done, even if you haven't had any fractures and haven't yet gone through menopause.

This is getting long, so I'm going to stop here for today.  Next up: a plan of action (and it doesn't involve prescription drugs!)  There is hope!  God is good and He created our bodies with amazing restorative capacity.

Persevering joyfully here,

(and prayerfully trusting God's plan)


  1. Oh sorry you have this to deal with...but SO glad you are finding natural ways to remedy it!! I'll be interested to see what you come up with. One thing you may want to look into (you may already know about it) is Rooibos (or Red Bush) tea. Here is a link for you ~

    Many blessings,

  2. Wow Susan that's a crummy diagnosis! It is very encouraging that you are looking for natural ways to help your body repair itself! Didn't God make our bodies wonderfully?!? I actually have wondered about the whole bone density thing myself. (Currently pregnant with my 5th) Ever since my second child I've had problems with my teeth and the dentist mentioned in passing that having multiple pregnancies and breastfeeding could sap the calcium from your teeth (so it only seems logical to have the same happen from your bones!) Like you I have pretty much no other risk factor, other than my build, tall and thin. I am very active and a healthy eater. Do you know if you can have a bone density scan during pregnancy or breastfeeding? I can't wait to read about what you are doing to combat this!

  3. I appreciate you taking the time to post this. As a mother of twelve myself (also all breastfed until I conceived the next one), I have dreamed of reading a book on health written by and for moms of many. I know that pregnancy/lactating have affected my body in many ways. But what is "normal" for a mother of twelve? I know no other one to ask!
    I am now wondering about my own bone condition. I have never had a broken bone, but I have also several years of dairy-free eating. Thank you for the warning.

  4. What a wonderful eye opening post, thank you! As a mom of soon to be 11 with 12 pregnancies, and I too nursed them all...I wonder where I stand, I too have had broken bones! I look forward to hearing your other information and will be praying for you as your on this journey to better bone health.

  5. Wow Susan, I didn't know about the fractures, I'm sorry to hear of this. Is there anything you can do to improve the situation now? Isn't it somewhat reversible?

  6. Thanks Susan. Appreciate your help to others and your reaction to this hard thing.

  7. ~Camille~ thanks for the link to the info on the Rooibos tea. I appreciate it. There is always more research and learning for me to do!

    ~Rachel~I am pretty sure that you can't have a DXA bone density scan done while pregnant~ it does involve a low dose of radiation, like a mini-x-ray, I believe. I would definitely add that to my "to do" list once your have your baby though. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

    ~Amy~ I totally agree with you about the need for a health book for us "moms of many!" Just *what* is normal for us, anyway? LOL! Thanks for sharing!

    ~Laura~ Oh my! You have had broken bones too? {{{hugs}}} We'll figure this out! ; )

    ~Michelle~ thanks, my friend! I plan to share some of my approach in a future post. From a medical viewpoint, "success" would be simply *not* losing additional bone mass! Yikes! I actually had to have my doctor repeat that statement to me. I have done quite a bit of research and am praying as well, so I'm hopeful for some reversal of my bone loss. Time will tell!

    ~Pam~ thanks, my friend! Have a fabulous Mother's Day!

  8. Great Post!
    Happy Mothers Day!

    Peace and Prayers,

  9. hi some you left of your list are taking hormone suppressant tablets after breast cancer and having hyperemesis during pregnancy (excessive sickness) as these plus early menopause at 39 have also put me at the same risk as you. i havent been as good at exercise as you have over the years something i now regret. I have been told to ensure i take plenty of vitamin D to help with my calcuim absorption but already do this as a vegetarian for over 20 years. so i to look forward to any natural remedies you can fnd. At least you now can prevent any further damamge and prevent any further fractures. Over this last year i have drawn lots of strength from know God knows the wider picture and that he is holding my hand every step of the way. He is there supporting you through this too.
    love jacqui

  10. ~Georgiann~ thanks! Hope you had a fabulous Mother's Day as well!

    ~jacqui~ Interesting! I also had severe morning sickness~ I never considered that that could play a part in my lack of bone density. It's been a busy, busy week, but I'm hoping to get my post with my "plan of action" up in the next few days. For what it's worth! LOL! Hope you had a fabulous Mother's Day!

  11. Thanks so much for the reminder. I have had this in the back of my mind. Things like that tend to stay back there, too! :) I'm glad you could find a diagnosis BEFORE the hip replacement! I will be interested in what you find to help.
    It is hard to put ourselves on the top of the list of caring for when there are so many others, but if we are down, then we realize how important it is!

    In this with you and LEANING on Him!

  12. Susan, thank you so much for sharing this struggle! I am a young mother with four children and hoping to have many more, so this is so good to be warned about. I also wanted to send you the link to this article on osteoporosis by Dr. Mercola- He is a natural health expert who exposes many medical falsehoods, while also bringing to light many natural cures. One natural cure for bone density that he mentions in the article is Himalayan salt since it is an excellent source of minerals. I bought a 10 lb. bag online and add one teaspoon per gallon of my drinking water. Also, if you search his site, there are many other articles on bone density. I will be praying that the Lord gives you wisdom and strengthens your bones, even at this stage of life. HE can do ANYTHING! :)

    Thanks for making your blog a bright spot of encouragement on the web! Sincerely,

  13. ~Susan~ we are all in the midst of a definite juggling act, aren't we? Yes, yes, yes to "leaning on Him." So thankful for the Everlasting Arms.

    ~Emily,.. I have spent some time on Dr. Mercola's site too~ I appreciate his perspective on medical issues. The Himalayan salt is very interesting. I just recently purchased some Celtic sea in bulk for us to use. Hopefully it is a beneficial as the salt you mentioned. I never thought to add it to our water! Thanks for the comments and ideas!

  14. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.


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