What is osteopenia?
Osteopenia [os-tea-oh-pee-nee-ah] means thin bones.
Osteopenia happens when a baby’s bones do not yet have enough minerals to make them strong. The most important minerals for bones are calcium and phosphorus.
What causes osteopenia?
Babies grow a lot during the last 3 months of pregnancy. During that time, they need large amounts of minerals for good bone growth.
But preterm babies are born before this growth is completed. As a result, their bones do not yet have enough minerals to make them strong.
What are the symptoms of osteopenia?
Most babies with osteopenia don’t have any symptoms. A few babies with severe osteopenia may have a fracture (broken bone). This can cause swelling and pain.
How common is osteopenia?
All preterm babies have some amount of osteopenia. This is because bones absorb the most minerals between 32 and 36 weeks’ gestation. Babies born
after 36 weeks can also have osteopenia.
How is osteopenia measured?
X-rays are used to monitor the baby’s bone growth

How is osteopenia treated in preterm babies?
Osteopenia is treated by giving the baby extra minerals. This can be done by:
• Fortifying breast milk by adding calcium and phosphorus
• Using formula designed for preterm infants
What are the complications of osteopenia?
Osteopenia can limit bone growth. The baby may also be at higher risk for broken bones. But these problems usually can be limited with treatment.
What will happen next?
Your baby will be treated for osteopenia. The health care team will monitor the baby’s bone health. When treated, osteopenia in newborns rarely causes long-term problems.
Talk to the health care team. They can answer any questions you have about your baby

Glossary
Fortifying – strengthening
Fracture – broken bone
Minerals – substances needed to
stay healthy. Examples of minerals
are iron, calcium, and sodium
Osteopenia – thin bones; in
preterm babies, osteopenia
happens because the bones have
not had enough time to absorb
all the minerals they need
Preterm – born before 37 weeks’
gestation

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