Breast-Feeding Staves Off Multiple Sclerosis After Pregnancy

Breast-feeding for at least 2 months after pregnancy can help prevent a disease relapse in women with multiple sclerosis, according to a report in the Archives of Neurology.

"Our findings call into question the benefit of foregoing breast-feeding to start multiple sclerosis therapies and should be confirmed in a larger study," Dr. Annette Langer-Gould, from Stanford University School of Medicine, California, and colleagues state.

The results come from a study of 29 pregnant women with multiple sclerosis and 29 similar women without the disease. The women were interviewed at multiple points after their pregnancy to assess breast-feeding practices. In the multiple sclerosis group, neurologic exam findings by the treating doctors were reviewed by the researchers.

Fourteen women with multiple sclerosis breastfed for at least 2 months after delivery and 15 did not. The disease relapse rate in the former group was 36 percent, much lower than the 87 percent rate seen in the latter.

On final analysis, women who did not breastfeed for at least 2 months were seven times more likely to experience a relapse than their peers who did.

The most common reason for not breast-feeding, cited by 60 percent of women, was to resume multiple sclerosis therapies.

The results suggest that "women with multiple sclerosis should be encouraged to breast-feed exclusively for at least the first 2 months postpartum in lieu of starting...treatment shortly after delivery," the investigators state.