While I was enjoying a lazy holiday and filling up on turkey and pumpkin pie, some interesting news broke about women with multiple sclerosis. Research out of the Nationaal MS Centrum in Belgium showed that childbirth appears to slow the progression of MS. In a study of 330 patients, mothers were 34 percent less likely than childless women to have their disease develop into an advanced form where walking assistance was required.
Past research has shown that many women with MS see an improvement in their disease during pregnancy, but study author Marie D'hooghe, MD, told WebMD that few studies have found a long-term effect of childbirth on the disease.
But why might pregnancy impact the disease at all? From HealthDay News:
Though much remains to be learned about the role of pregnancy in MS, a possible reason why it may help slow the progression of the disease is that during pregnancy, the immune system is "downregulated," in part to prevent the mother's body from rejecting the fetus, [Patricia] O'Looney [director of biomedical research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society] explained. Suppressing the immune system may also help to control MS, O'Looney noted...
A second possibility... is that during pregnancy, estrogen levels rise. Previous research has suggested estrogen may help protect from MS by stimulating the cells that make myelin. The MS Society is currently funding a clinical trial in which women with MS are given estriol, a form of estrogen, along with standard MS treatments.
D'hooghe's study appears in the online version of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Previously: Encouraging news for pregnant women with MS or epilepsy
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