Text Size: a  |   a 

Moms Who Breastfeed May Have Reduced Risk Of Multiple Sclerosis

July 14, 2017

A new study has found that mothers who breastfeed for a total of at least 15 months over one or more pregnancies may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with those who don’t breastfeed at all or do so for up to four months. The study was published in the online issue of Neurology. Women with MS have significantly fewer relapses, or attacks, during pregnancy or while they are breastfeeding exclusively, meaning that the child receives only breast milk.

"Many experts have suggested that the levels of sex hormones are responsible for these findings, but we hypothesized that the lack of ovulation may play a role, so we wanted to see if having a longer time of breastfeeding or fewer total years when a woman is ovulating could be associated with the risk of MS," Langer-Gould said.

The study consisted of 397 women with an average age of 37 who were newly diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome. The women were given in-person questionnaires about pregnancies, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use and other factors. Women who had breastfed for a cumulative amount with one or more children for 15 months or more were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or clinically isolated syndrome than women who had a total of zero to four months of breastfeeding. A total of 85 of the healthy women had breastfed for 15 months or more, compared to 44 of the women with MS. For the healthy women, 110 breastfed for zero to four months, compared to 118 of the women with MS. However, Langer-Gould noted that the study does not prove that breastfeeding is responsible for the reduced risk of MS. It only shows the association.

"This study provides more evidence that women who are able to breastfeed their infants should be supported in doing so," Langer-Gould said. "Among the many other benefits to the mother and the baby, breastfeeding may reduce the mother's future risk of developing MS."

Via Medical X-Press