A woman’s age at her first menstruation, or becoming pregnant and breastfeeding does not substantially influence the long-term risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or the risk of increased disability, a study of a large number of patients with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) shows.
Rather, careful clinical exams of women making “reproductive decisions” — like looking for evidence of a second relapse or brain lesions on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans — and starting appropriate MS treatment early in the disease course was the study’s “main message,” the researchers concluded, providing “useful information for women with MS regarding reproductive counseling
The observational study “Menarche, pregnancies, and breastfeeding do not modify long-term prognosis in multiple sclerosis” was published in the journal Neurology.
It is well-established that women are at higher risk of MS, developing the disease two to three times more frequently than men. This fact suggests gender differences in the immune system or the central nervous system, possibly caused by differences in genes, sex hormones, and/or exposure to environmental risk factors like smoking habits, and weight (high body mass index).
Yet, the role of sex-related factors in MS prognosis is still under debate.
For example, it has been proposed that an early menarche (a first menstruation, first monthly period cycle) or earlier sexual maturation amount to a longer exposure to sex hormones, which might be associated with an increased disease risk.
Other studies demonstrated that the probability of an MS attack (relapse) lessens during pregnancy, but rises shortly after the baby’s birth due to hormonal changes. But the long-term effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding on MS risk are not established.
Mar Tintoré, a neurologist and chief clinician at the Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia in Spain, and colleagues conducted a study to better understand the role of hormonal factors in modifying MS disease course. Specifically, they investigated if a person’s age at first menstruation, being pregnant before and after CIS onset, and breastfeeding played a role in her MS prognosis.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?