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Pregnancy can provide needed protection.

Pregnancy appears to have a positive effect on long-term disability in women with two types of multiple sclerosis, indicating that reproductive hormones may play a protective role in MS progression, neurology researchers at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.) have found. Women with either relapsing (R-MS) or primary progressive disease (PPMS) who do not bear children are more likely to have higher disability scores than those who had at least one child.

Women with no live births (nulliparous) with progressive MS disease are 2.1 times more likely to have more severe disability compared to women with at least one live birth (parous), reports Barbara Teter, assistant professor of neurology and director of research and development for the New York State MS Consortium.

"Women with MS have a chronic and unpredictable course of disease that strikes during childbearing years. Evaluation of the differences between parous and nulliparous women with long-standing MS provides clinical insight regarding the potentially protective influence of pregnancy on long-term disability."

It generally is assumed that pregnancy modifies MS disease during and after giving birth, due to its hormonal changes that interfere strongly with the immune system. "Biological mechanisms that offer protection during pregnancy are also likely to provide favorable, long-term anti-inflammatory effects," notes Teter. "This effect likely overcomes the well-known postpartum instability usually characterized by relapses during the first three to four months after giving birth that is seen in one-third of patients.

"Recent studies propose that exclusive breast feeding and subsequent suppression of menses may decrease the postpartum relapse rate, lending further evidence of the potential beneficial effect of reproductive hormones."

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Title Annotation:Multiple Sclerosis
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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