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Breast-Feeding May Reduce Risk of Multiple Sclerosis Relapse

Last Updated: June 10, 2009.

Exclusive breast-feeding and the delayed return of menstruation that comes with it can reduce the risk of postpartum relapse of multiple sclerosis, according to a study reported online June 8 in the Archives of Neurology.

WEDNESDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Exclusive breast-feeding and the delayed return of menstruation that comes with it can reduce the risk of postpartum relapse of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study reported online June 8 in the Archives of Neurology.

Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., of Stanford University in California, and colleagues interviewed 32 mothers with MS and 29 without MS in each pregnancy trimester, and two, four, six, nine, and 12 months postpartum, about clinical issues, menstruation and breast-feeding. Researchers assessed neurological exam results to determine status of MS. Hazard ratios for postpartum MS relapse, the primary study outcome, were calculated and adjusted for disease severity and age.

The researchers found that, among the women with MS who did not breast-feed or began formula within two months after birth, 87 percent had postpartum MS relapse, compared to 36 percent of the women with MS who breast-fed at least two months exclusively (unadjusted hazard ratio, 5.0; adjusted hazard ratio, 7.1). Of the women who did not breast-feed or stopped early, 60 percent said the reason was to resume MS therapies. The authors further note that menstruation returned later to the women who exclusively breast-fed compared to those who did not, and this suspended menstruation was associated with a reduced risk of postpartum MS relapse.

"Our findings suggest that exclusive breast-feeding and concomitant suppression of menses significantly reduce the risk of postpartum relapses in MS. Our findings call into question the benefit of foregoing breast-feeding to start MS therapies and should be confirmed in a larger study," the authors conclude.

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