The study, to be carried out at the University of Manchester's School of Medicine, is believed to be first into the long-term effects of early pregnancy on bone health.
The female skeleton contains a greater amount of calcium than the male, believed to be necessary for the demands of pregnancy and breast-feeding. As bones continue to develop until the age of about 25, it is thought that pregnancy could pose a greater threat to bone health of younger mothers.
The researchers are aiming to discover whether continued bone development in teenagers who have been pregnant differs from those who have not, or from the calcium levels of older mothers. Potential differences between mothers who breast feed and those who are bottle-feeding will also be investigated.
Around 70 expectant or new mothers aged 13 -19 are being recruited for the study, with a similar number of 25 - 35 year old mothers for comparative purposes. A third group, of non-pregnant 13 - 19 year olds, will act as a control group.
Calcium recovery rates after pregnancy will be assessed by scanning both mother and baby to measure bone density and shape, within four weeks of the birth and at intervals of three and nine months after. Volunteers will also be asked to respond to a short questionnaire upon joining the study.
The project is due to end in spring 2006, with results to be published by the end of that year.