In this episode, we are sharing the highlights from our webinar 'Women’s Health' with Dr. Jonathan White and Professor Helen Reese Leahy. Dr. Jonathan White is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, and the Overcoming MS Medical Advisor. Helen lives with primary progressive MS and follows the Overcoming MS Program. They discuss how MS impacts women’s health and how the Overcoming MS Program can best support women’s health.

This webinar was recorded as part of our Finding Hope with Overcoming MS webinar series. You can watch the whole webinar here or the podcast highlights on YouTube here.

Keep reading for the key episode takeaways and bio information.


Read the episode transcript here.


Topics and Timestamps

00:56 The history of MS research with women (Helen)

08:15 Reproductive health and MS (Jonathan)

26:14 The Overcoming MS Program supports every aspect of women’s health (Helen)

34:51 Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (Jonathan)

47:41 Bladder issues with MS and menopause (Jonathan and Helen)

Selected Key Takeaways

More research is needed to understand menopause’s effect on MS
"The age group with the highest number of people with MS, both men and women, is now 55-64. So, if you think about [that] within the general MS population, that's obviously a very large number of women who are either menopausal or postmenopausal. But very, very few women over 50 are recruited for MS research trials. So, the effects of menopause on the lives and health of women with MS, in general, but also our response to DMTs, are very under-researched.”

Inflammation can worsen as we age
"‘Inflammageing’ is a fascinating term, which essentially [means] the inflamed pro-inflammatory state that people exhibit as they get older. A lot of the conditions we develop at an older age are actually due to increases in inflammation. Cardiovascular disease would be a prime example of that. We think that ‘Inflammageing’ certainly has a role in this mixed bag of MS and menopause, and of course, the obvious one to look at will be oestrogen deficiency.

Is HRT beneficial if you have MS?
There is some evidence to say that it is. But again, none of those studies are prospective or randomised control studies. Generally speaking, it's not recommended to take HRT just by virtue of having MS to protect yourself. But there's certainly no reason not to [take it] because you have MS [and menopause] and in fact, it may be beneficial. So, if you are struggling with the hot flushes, the night sweats or your urinary symptoms have suddenly got much worse, you're suffering from vaginal dryness, then this is definitely a conversation that you should be having."

Bladder issues are common with MS and menopause
"With MS in both males and females, we think up to between 50% and 70% of people will have bladder dysfunction due to MS. That usually affects the nerves supplying the muscle, the detrusor muscle in the bladder wall, and makes it very irritable, so it tends to be an overactive or urge problem with MS. That's also very common post-menopause, and the mechanism isn't entirely the same, but it does share a bit, and part of it is certainly to do with oestrogen deficiency."

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Dr. Jonathan White’s Bio

Career:

Jonathan went to the University of Glasgow Medical School, graduating in 2008 (MBChB). He completed a further five years of training in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (MRCOG). He works at the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine and has a special interest in early pregnancy and recurrent pregnancy loss.

In April 2022, Jonathan was awarded “Doctor of the Year” at the inaugural Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Awards. He contributed to the ‘Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Handbook: Roadmap to Good Health’, by writing the chapter about medication.

Overcoming MS and personal life:

Jonathan was diagnosed with RRMS in October 2015 and has been following the Overcoming MS Program ever since. Dr. White assists Overcoming MS as a medical advisor and event facilitator.

He lives on the North Coast of Northern Ireland, is married to Jenny and father to Angus and Struan. His interests include the great outdoors, cycling and running (reluctantly), reading, rugby, film and spending time with his family.

Professor Helen Rees Leahy’s bio:

MS and Overcoming MS

Helen was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS in 1997 when she was 37 years old. Being ineligible for any Disease Modifying Treatment (DMT) within the UK National Health Service, she began to explore holistic approaches to managing her condition.

She discovered Overcoming MS in 2008 and has followed the Program ever since. She was previously a Trustee for Overcoming MS.

Personal life and career

Helen lives in Conwy, a small, medieval town in North Wales. In 2017, she took medical retirement from the University of Manchester where she was a Professor in the Department of Art History and Cultural Practice. As an Emerita Professor, Helen continues to research and teach doctoral students. She also spends time hand-weaving and learning Welsh, the language of her ancestors.