It has long been known that relapse rates for women with MS fall during pregnancy and rise in the early period after giving birth.
This study from Stanford University examined 32 pregnant women with MS and 29 pregnant women without MS.
The researchers found that virtually all (96%) pregnant women without MS breastfed after giving birth, but only around two thirds (69%) of those with MS did. Most of the women with MS (73%) who didn't breastfeed or started early bottle feeding did so in order to start their MS medications again.
Women who didn't breastfeed or started bottle feeds within 2 months of giving birth had a five times higher risk of MS relapse in the year following the birth than those who breastfed.
Breastfeeding was even more protective in the sub-group of women with MS who had been on MS medication prior to pregnancy, with those not breastfeeding or starting early bottle feeds having 17 times higher risk of relapse than those breastfeeding in this group, a group with potentially more serious disease.
This research seriously calls into question the practice of stopping breastfeeding after childbirth in order to re-start disease-modifying therapies.
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