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Multiple Sclerosis Experts Offer Guidelines on Contraceptive Use Among Women with MS

May 16, 2017

Two studies show that contraceptive use may affect women with multiple sclerosis (MS). It can also affect how the disease might affect the safety and effectiveness of birth-control medications. However, one study found that relapsing MS patients treated with older drugs such as interferons and Copaxone have a lower risk of relapse if they previously used oral contraceptives. Researchers used 162 women participants with relapsing disease. Half were treated with interferons and half with Copaxone. They then divided them into previous, current, and never-users of oral contraceptives. The data showed no increased risk of relapse in women using oral contraceptives. However, the team found that the lower annualized relapse rate in current users relative to never users was insignificant.

The National MS Society, which co-funded the study together with the National Institutes of Health, emphasized that although researchers did not detect an increased risk, the study didn’t take factors such as age and certain health behaviors into account. These factors can potentially influence both contraceptive use and relapse rates. Other studies are underway. Meanwhile, there are guidelines for healthcare staff on how to handle contraception in MS. The publication, “Contraception for women with multiple sclerosis: Guidance for healthcare providers,” made it clear that MS is now among the conditions for which specific contraception recommendations exist.  The article also outlines the evidence that led to the recommendations.

 “This study and the guidelines provide further information to women with MS and healthcare professionals about the general safety of contraceptives, along with important considerations,” the National MS Society said. “Women are encouraged to discuss and concerns about pregnancy or contraception with their healthcare providers.”