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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Pregnancy And MS

    Pregnancy And MS

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    More news can be found in New Pathways Magazine, our bi-monthly publication, and also check daily at MSRC: Latest MS News.

    Infertility treatments may significantly increase Multiple Sclerosis activity

    IVFResearchers in Argentina report that women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who undergo assisted reproduction technology (ART) infertility treatment are at risk for increased disease activity. Study findings published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, suggest reproductive hormones contribute to regulation of immune responses in autoimmune diseases such as MS.

    According to a 2006 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), MS affects 2.5 million individuals worldwide and is more common among women than men. While previous research found that up to 20% of couples in Western countries experience infertility, women with MS typically do not have diminished fertility except in those treated with cyclophosphamide or high-dose corticosteroids. Medical evidence shows sex hormones and those involved in ovulation (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH)) play an important role in the development of autoimmune disorders.

    "When MS and infertility coincide, patients seek ART to achieve pregnancy," explains Dr. Jorge Correale with the Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires. "Given the role of some reproductive hormones in autoimmune diseases, those with MS receiving infertility treatments are at particular risk of exacerbating their disease."

    To further understand the impact of infertility treatment on MS disease activity, researchers analyzed clinical, radiological, and immune response data in 16 MS patients who were subject to 26 ART cycles. The team recruited 15 healthy volunteers and 15 MS patients in remission not receiving ART to serve as controls.

    Results show that 75% of MS patients experienced disease exacerbation following infertility treatment. MS relapses were reported in 58% of the cycles during the three month period following ART treatment. Furthermore, ART was associated with a seven-fold increase in risk of MS exacerbation and a nine-fold increase of greater MS disease activity on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The authors noted that 73% of exacerbations were new symptoms and 27% were attributed to a worsening of pre-existing symptoms.

    Worsening was associated with three different mechanisms: 1) increase in the production of certain pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines (IL-8, IL-12, IFN-γ, and TGF-β by CD4+ T a GnRH-mediated effect); 2) increase in the production of antibodies against de myelin protein MOG, as well as B cell survival factor BAFF and antiapoptotic molecule Bcl-2 levels from purified B cells, these effects were a consequences of the rise of 17-β estradiol production induced by ART; and 3) authors demonstrated using an in vitro model of the blood-brain-barrier that ART facilitated the penetration of deleterious peripheral blood cells into the central nervous system, an effect mediated by the induction of the molecules IL-8, VEGF and CXCL-12.

    "Our findings indicate a significant increase in MS disease activity following infertility treatment," concludes Dr. Correale. "Neurologists should be aware of possible disease exacerbation so they may discuss the benefits and risks of ART with MS patients."

    Source: Medical News Today © MediLexicon International Ltd 2004-2012 (03/10/12)

    Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk for multiple sclerosis

    Breast FeedingSummary: This interesting new epidemiological study from a research group in Berlin, Germany has found an association between breastfeeding in infancy on the risk of developing MS. The data suggests that breastfeeding is protective against developing MS but that the protective effect only emerges after four months of breastfeeding. These findings are similar to studies of other autoimmune diseases and gives further insight into possible benefits of breastfeeding infants.

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease with known genetic and environmental susceptibility factors. Breastfeeding has been shown to be protective in other autoimmune diseases.

    This case-control study analysed the association of breastfeeding in infancy on the risk of developing MS.

    A case-control study was performed in Berlin of 245 MS patients and 296 population-based controls, who completed a standardised questionnaire on their history and duration of breastfeeding in infancy and demographic characteristics. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to investigate the association between breastfeeding and MS. The multivariate model was adjusted for age, gender, number of older siblings, number of inhabitants in place of domicile between ages 0 and 6 (categorised in each case), and daycare attendance between ages 0 and 3.

    In multivariable analysis, breastfeeding showed an independent association with MS (adjusted OR 0.58; p = 0.028). However, with no breastfeeding as reference, the protective effect only emerges after four months of breastfeeding (multivariable analysis for ≤ four months adjusted OR 0.87; p = 0.614 and for > four months OR 0.51; p = 0.016).

    The results of this case-control study support the hypothesis that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of MS. These results are in line with findings of previous studies on other autoimmune diseases, in which breastfeeding was shown to have protective effects.

    Conradi S, Malzahn U, Paul F, Quill S, Harms L, Then Bergh F, Ditzenbach A, Georgi T, Heuschmann P, Rosche B.

    Department of Neurology and Experimental Neurology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.

    Mult Scler. 2012 Sep 4. & Pubmed PMID: 22951352 (11/09/12)

    MS relapse more common after in vitro fertilisation procedure

    IVFWomen with multiple sclerosis may have an increased risk of relapse in the months following in vitro fertilization (IVF), a French study showed.

    The annualized relapse rate (ARR), or the number of relapses divided by the person-years at risk, was significantly higher during the 3-month period following IVF (mean ARR 1.60) compared with the 3 months just prior to the procedure (mean ARR 0.80) and a 3-month control period a year before the procedure (mean ARR 0.68), according to David-Axel Laplaud, MD, PhD, of the University of Nantes in France, and colleagues.

    The greater risk was possibly associated with a failure of the procedure to result in pregnancy and the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists to desensitize the ovaries, the researchers reported online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

    "Multiple sclerosis patients should be aware of a possible increased risk of ... relapse after IVF, particularly if the procedure does not result in a pregnancy," the authors wrote. "Furthermore, because there is a reasonable doubt that gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may make patients more prone to such an increase in relapse rate, gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists might be preferred for IVF protocols."

    Sex hormones have been shown to be associated with disease activity in multiple sclerosis, and so it is possible that the hormonal treatments used during assisted reproductive techniques may influence short-term disease processes, according to the researchers.

    To explore the issue, they examined data on 32 women with multiple sclerosis who underwent 70 IVF treatments from 1998 through 2008. The women were identified either through French university hospital databases or by direct referral from neurologists.

    Each IVF treatment included the initial step of ovarian desensitization with either gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (in 48 cases) or antagonists (in 19 cases), followed by ovarian stimulation with follicle-stimulating hormone. Data on the drugs used for ovarian desensitization were missing for three treatments.

    Of the 70 IVF treatments, 49 failed and 21 resulted in a pregnancy.

    During the 3 months after the procedures, 19 women had a total of 26 relapses, with a significant increase in the relapse rate compared with periods immediately prior to and 1 year before the treatment.

    The researchers noted, however, that when the period of interest was extended from 3 to 6 months after the treatments, the increase in relapses was not statistically significant.

    "Thus, it is difficult to conclude whether IVF may provoke additional relapse or only shorten the delay between IVF and the following relapse," they wrote.

    The significant increases in relapses were related both to IVF failure (P=0.019) and the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (P=0.025), although the latter interaction did not reach significance for all statistical tests.

    IVF performed with gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists did not lead to a significant difference in ARR, regardless of study period length.

    "Failure of IVF led to a decrease in sex hormones that might be similar to that observed in the postpartum period where an increased relapse rate has been demonstrated, thus providing a plausible explanation for the results observed in our multivariate analysis," the authors wrote.

    They added that the stress of an in vitro fertilization treatment may also trigger relapses.

    The study was limited, they wrote, by the small cohort, possible bias introduced by pooling patients recruited through different means, and the lack of a control group.

    The study was supported by a grant from the PHRC Inter-régional 2005 (French Ministry of Health).

    The authors reported that they had no conflicts of interest.

    Primary source: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry
    Source reference:
    Michel L, et al "Increased risk of multiple sclerosis relapse after in vitro fertilization" J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2012; DOI:10.1136/jnnp-2012-302235.

    Source: Medpage Today © 2012 Everyday Health, Inc (12/06/12)

    Multiple Sclerosis symptoms 'eased' by pregnancy

    MS And PregnancyResearchers are carrying out clinical trials to find out if women with a range of autoimmune diseases could be helped by hormones found in pregnancy.

    Women with a range of conditions, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease report dramatic improvements in their symptoms during pregnancy.

    However many say their conditions return, or worsen, after childbirth.

    Two clinical trials are being held in France and California.

    Researchers want to find out whether increasing levels of progesterone or oestrogen could protect women from relapses after childbirth.

    The MS Society has welcomed the study but urged some caution.

    Chief executive Simon Gillespie said: "This is encouraging. Some of the research going on, particularly the research in France at the moment, gives a potential clue and a potential way forward on treatments but long-term use of hormones is problematic. It does cause risks.

    "So therefore the research needs to be done properly to identify what the benefits are and what the risks are before there can be any genuine therapeutic use."

    The results from the French study are due in October.

    Claire Oliver, 36, from Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is a mother to two boys aged 10 and three.

    She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 19, but noticed a startling difference when she became pregnant for the first time, at 25.

    "It was fantastic, almost like my symptoms completely disappeared," she said. "I felt completely well. Even after he was born I could lift him out, move him about the house, which I didn't think would be possible."

    She enjoyed five years without a relapse, and when she became pregnant for the second time, found a similar effect.

    'Big difference'
    Lindsay Ross, a teacher from Aberdeen, is the mother of an eight-month-old baby boy. She has rheumatoid arthritis.

    She said: "Before falling pregnant I had a lot of trouble with hand, feet and knee joints shoulders.

    "On falling pregnant I did notice a big difference, really it seemed to disappear."

    She added: "But six weeks after giving birth it did come back, slowly to begin with, then worse than ever."

    Ms Ross is on a strong drug which is also used in the treatment of cancer, and hopes eventually a treatment will be found which is milder.

    Anne Hart, a mother of two, lives in Fife. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2007.

    She said: "It affects so many things but tiredness is the big one, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, always being cold - even in the summer I have the heating on, brittle nails, headaches."

    However, a year after she was diagnosed, Ms Hart found her symptoms suddenly lifted.

    She said: "To be given a break from it for nine months, you just wish there was some way you could get that every day, but without having to have another baby.

    "It does make you wonder what is it in your body, is it the pregnancy hormone? How is this happening? It's hard having had that break from it for things to get worse again."

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2012 (25/05/12)

    Pregnancy may protect against MS, study says

    Pregnancy And MSNew research suggests that pregnancy may decrease women's risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

    "Even one pregnancy was associated with nearly a halving of risk [of developing MS symptoms]," said study author Anne-Louise Ponsonby, head of the environmental and genetic epidemiology and research group at Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. The team also found that women who were pregnant two or more times had only one-quarter of the risk of developing MS symptoms as those who were never pregnant.

    The study was published online March 7 in the journal Neurology.

    Previous research has found that pregnancy in women who already have MS -- an autoimmune disorder -- is linked with lower rates of relapse.

    Ponsonby's team found an association between pregnancy and a lower risk of MS symptoms, not a direct cause-and-effect link. They say, however, that this association may help explain why the incidence of MS in women has inched up over the past few decades, as more women delay pregnancy or have fewer babies or none at all.

    The researchers evaluated information on 282 Australian men and women, aged 18 to 59, who had MS symptoms -- which can include fatigue, numbness, balance or walking problems -- but had not been diagnosed with the disease. The researchers looked at both the number of live births and pregnancies lasting at least 20 weeks in the women. They also recorded the number of children born to men. They compared those statistics to 542 men and women without MS symptoms.

    No link was found between the number of children men had and their risk of MS symptoms. There was an association with women, however: the risk of developing MS symptoms decreased as the number of pregnancies increased.

    The researchers couldn't say exactly why pregnancy may lower MS risk, but they speculated it could be the increase in estrogen during pregnancy or the effect pregnancy has on inflammatory genes involved in MS.

    The study was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and other organizations.

    Women are more likely than men to develop MS. Having a close relative with MS also increases your risk. About 400,000 people in the United States have MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    The new data supports information already known about MS and pregnancy, said Karen Blitz-Shabbir, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Care Center at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

    "It is generally accepted that pregnancy is 'protective' in that it reduces the relapse rate during pregnancy," Blitz-Shabbir said. "While these study results should be replicated, it again shows us favourable effects of pregnancy in women. This may help us frame future studies looking into hormonal treatment or other treatments that may alter the disease course."

    Source: HealthDay Copyright © 2012 HealthDay (08/03/12)

    Breastfeeding does not protect against MS relapses, study suggests

    Breast FeedingNew research finds breastfeeding doesn't appear to protect against multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses, despite previous studies suggesting there may be a protective role. The research is published in the July 6, 2011, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

    "Breastfeeding should not be encouraged by doctors to protect against MS relapses, especially among women with MS who have high disease activity and high risk of postpartum relapses," said study author Emilio Portaccio, MD, of the University of Florence in Italy. "Since it is not considered safe for women to take MS drugs while breastfeeding, breastfeeding may not be feasible for these women who may need to resume treatment to avoid relapses soon after giving birth."

    The study involved 302 pregnancies in 298 women with full-term deliveries who were followed for one year after delivery. A total of 34.4 percent of the women breastfed for at least two months; the remaining 65.6 percent breastfed for less than two months or not at all and were considered not breastfeeding.

    In the year after delivery, 37 percent of women experienced one relapse and 6.6 percent had two or more relapses.

    The study found breastfeeding did not appear to have a protective effect on relapses in women after adjusting for age at pregnancy, duration of MS, level of disability, relapses in the year before and during pregnancy, drug treatment and exposure to chemicals or smoking. However, breastfeeding did not worsen the relapse rate.

    According to Portaccio, the only significant predictors of postpartum relapses were relapses in the year before and during pregnancy.

    Women who had relapses in the year before pregnancy were 50 percent more likely to have a relapse after giving birth than those who did not have relapses in the year before pregnancy. Women who had relapses during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a relapse in the postpartum period as women who did not have relapses during pregnancy.

    "Earlier reported associations between breastfeeding and a lower risk of postpartum relapses may simply reflect different patient behavior, biased by the disease activity. Women who have fewer relapses before and during pregnancy may be more likely to breastfeed and then continue to have fewer relapses in the postpartum period. However, a course of postpartum steroids might protect against later attacks. Approaches of this type were not assessed in this study and might, in consultation with the treating neurologist, enable breastfeeding," Portaccio said.

    The study was supported by the MS Study Group of the Italian Neurological Society, and involved the main 21 Italian MS Centers located throughout the country.

    Source: Science Daily Copyright © 1995-2011 ScienceDaily LLC (07/07/11)

    Study finds pregnancy safe in multiple sclerosis

    Pregnancy And MSCanadian researchers have found that maternal multiple sclerosis (MS) is generally not associated with adverse delivery outcomes or risk to their offspring. Full findings now appear in Annals of Neurology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Neurological Association.

    MS is a chronic, inflammatory neurologic disease and the most common cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults in the Western world. Nearly 75% of MS patients are women who often experience disease onset in early adulthood—a time when many consider starting a family. Prior studies report that up to one-third of women with MS bear children after disease onset, underscoring the need to understand the effects of maternal MS on pregnancy outcomes, which is the focus of the current study by Mia van der Kop, a member of the MS research group led by Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute in Vancouver, Canada.

    The research team analyzed data from the British Columbia (BC) MS Clinics' database and the BC Perinatal Database Registry between 1998 and 2009. Researchers identified 432 births to women with MS and 2975 to women without the disease, comparing gestational age, birth weight, type of birth (vaginal versus caesarean section). Age at MS onset, disease duration and level of disability were also examined.

    Results showed that babies born to mothers with MS did not have a significantly different mean gestational age or birth weight compared to babies born to healthy mothers. Mothers with MS were not more likely to have a vaginal delivery or C-section. Researchers noted that MS mothers with greater levels of disability had a slightly elevated risk of adverse delivery outcomes. This finding was not statistically significant and further investigation was suggested. Age at onset of MS and duration of disease were not linked to adverse delivery or neonatal outcomes.

    "Our finding that MS was not associated with poor pregnancy or birth outcomes should be reassuring to women with MS who are planning to start a family," said Dr. Tremlett. The authors did note that MS mothers were more often overweight or obese, which is associated with greater risk during pregnancy and birth. Researchers suggest that these women be advised to optimize their weight prior to becoming pregnant. "The importance of body mass index and pregnancy-related outcomes in MS should be explored in future studies," M. van der Kop concluded.

    Full citation: "Neonatal and Delivery Outcomes in Women with Multiple Sclerosis"; Mia L. van der Kop, Mark S. Pearce, Leanne Dahlgren, Anne Synnes, Dessa Sadovnick, Ana-Luiza Sayao and Helen Tremlett. Annals of Neurology; Published Online: June 27, 2011 (DOI:10.1002/ana.22483).

    Source: EurekaAlert! (27/06/11)

    Pregnancy and Vitamin D may protect against MS - studies

    Vitamin D and MSTasmanian researchers have found that delaying pregnancy may increase the likelihood of women getting multiple sclerosis.

    A yet to be published study looking at MS over the last 60 years has found the frequency of the disease has risen dramatically and it's largely been driven by women.

    The Menzies Research Institute's Associate Professor, Bruce Taylor, says delaying pregnancy could be having an impact.

    "We think that having children is protective for having MS, He said.

    "In fact in another study we've done we've shown the more children you have the lower chance you have of developing MS and because women are having their children later in their 30s rather than their 20s or even in their late teens they don't get that neuro-protective or neuro-immunological affect of carrying a child."

    A comparatively cheap vitamin D supplement could change the way sufferers of multiple sclerosis are treated for the disease.

    Research has long established that increased vitamin D levels reduce the risk of getting MS.

    Another new study has shown that vitamin D levels are not only associated with the onset but also with the frequency of attacks.

    The Menzies Research Institute looked at vitamin D levels in nearly 200 people with MS and found the higher the levels of the vitamin, the lower the number of attacks.

    Dr Taylor says the research has worldwide implications.

    "Currently our treatments for MS which are effective are hugely expensive," he said.

    "They are drugs that cost the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme $25,000 a year, vitamin D is about $300 per year."

    Dr Taylor says relapses add to the level of disability experienced by the sufferer.

    "They can be devastating, relapses can be fatal to people."

    "If you get it in the wrong part of the brain it can stop you breathing.

    "So that's incredibly rare and I don't want to scare people, they also can be extremely mild, but what they indicate is the disease is active."

    Source: ABC News © 2011 ABC (20/05/11)

    Pregnancy in women with two types of MS may mitigate MS progression

    Pregnancy And MSWomen with either relapsing (R-MS) or primary progressive disease (PPMS) who do not bear children are more likely to have higher disability scores than women who had a least one child, results of their research show.
    The research was presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Neurology held in April in Honolulu. Barbara Teter, PhD, assistant professor of neurology and director of research and development for the New York State MS Consortium (NYSMSC), is first author.
    "In multivariable logistic regression models adjusted for duration of disease and year of registration, women with no live births (nulliparous) with progressive MS disease were 2.1 times more likely to have more severe disability compared to women with at least one live birth (parous.)
    "Women with MS have a chronic and unpredictable course of disease that strikes during childbearing years," continues Teter. "Evaluation of the differences between parous and nulliparous women with long-standing MS provides clinical insight regarding the potentially protective influence of pregnancy on long-term disability."

    The study is based on retrospective data from the NYSMSC registry, in which UB's Department of Neurology is the lead site.
    In a recent retrospective study conducted by the consortium, researchers found that, in a registry of 3,038 women with MS, those who had given birth had significantly lower odds of reaching an EDSS score equal to or greater than 6, compared with women who had no children.
    The EDSS score is an average number derived from measures of various functions of the central nervous system, based on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 representing death from MS. EDSS 6.0 represents an ambulation milestone of requiring an assistive device to walk.
    "Although studies have found differences in progressive disease from onset between men and women," says Teter, "to date, no studies had evaluated the potential association between parity and clinical outcomes for women with primary progressive MS from onset versus relapsing MS."
    The current study was based on 2,411 cases of those two MS types: 2,117 with R-MS and 354 with PPMS. Among relapsing MS women, 79.9 percent had children, versus 83.6 percent of the women with progressive MS.
    Results showed that among women with relapsing MS who had children, 81.2 percent had had EDSS scores equal to or lower than 5.5, meaning they were still able to walk without assistance. Among women with progressive MS who had children, 90 percent had EDSS scores equal to or lower than 5.5.
    "Parity was independently associated with long-term disability of EDSS equal to or greater than 6.0 for women with relapsing or progressive clinically diagnosed MS disease types," says Teter. "Women who bore children were significantly less likely to be in the EDSS equal to or greater than 6.0 group compared to nulliparous women."
    It is generally assumed that pregnancy modifies MS disease during and after giving birth, due to its hormonal changes that interfere strongly with the immune system.
    "Biological mechanisms that offer protection during pregnancy are also likely to provide favorable, long-term anti-inflammatory effects," says Teter. "This effect likely overcomes the well-known postpartum instability usually characterized by relapses during the first 3-4 months after giving birth that is seen in one-third of patients.
    "Recent studies propose that exclusive breastfeeding and subsequent suppression of menses may decrease the postpartum relapse rate, lending further evidence of the potential beneficial effect of reproductive hormones,"
    Teter says.

    Source: Medical Xpress © Medical Xpress 2011 (10/05/11)

    Delivery of healthy babies after natalizumab use for MS

    MS And PregnancySummary: This brief report from the authors represents the first published report of safety of natalizumab during pregnancy in women with multiple sclerosis. One patient used natalizumab in the periconceptional period, and the other patient used it in both the periconceptional period and throughout gestation.

    The antenatal course of the first patient was complicated by an MS relapse. The second patient did not experience MS relapses during pregnancy, while still using natalizumab. Both babies were born without any detectable abnormality up to the sixth week of follow up.

    Further data will be required before we can fully understand the safety implications of using natalizumab during pregnancy.


    Background -  In current literature, no data on safety in pregnancy for new drugs in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) like natalizumab (Tysabri(®) ), a humanized monoclonal antibody against α4 integrins, are yet available. In the management of MS, natalizumab is the first monoclonal antibody approved to the market.

    Methods -  We describe the pregnancy and outcome in two women with MS using natalizumab. The first patient used it in the periconceptional period, and the second patient used it in both the periconceptional period and throughout gestation.

    Results -  The antenatal course of the first patient was complicated by an exacerbation of MS. The second patient did not experience MS relapses during pregnancy, while still using natalizumab. The newborns did not show any abnormalities postnatal and at 6 weeks' follow-up.

    Conclusions -  This is the first detailed report on pregnancy and delivery of two babies after maternal treatment of MS with natalizumab. From the small number of cases on the usage of natalizumab during pregnancy in literature, we cannot conclude whether the use of natalizumab is safe, and long-term effects are not known. Further research is needed to establish the exact effects on pregnancy and intrauterine development as well as the long-term effects. Prenatal counseling with thorough explanation of the risks and careful decision making is advisable.

    Hoevenaren IA, de Vries LC, Rijnders RJ, Lotgering FK.

    Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jeroen Bosch Hospital, 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands Teratology Information Service, RIVM/National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

    Source:  Acta Neurol Scand: 2011: 123: 430-433. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S. & Pubmed PMID: 21492099 (21/04/11)

    Breast feeding cuts MS relapses

    Pregnancy And MSFor new mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS), exclusive breast feeding for several months after delivery appears to protect against relapses, a researcher reported here.

    In a prospective cohort study of 72 women with MS, less than one in 10 who breast fed exclusively had a relapse in the first six months after delivery, according to Kerstin Hellwig, MD, of the University of Bochum in Bochum, Germany.

    On the other hand, more than a third of those who did not breast feed exclusively suffered a relapse, Hellwig reported at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

    In another analysis presented at the same time, Hellwig said findings were similar when she and colleagues looked at 335 pregnancies in a combined retrospective/prospective cohort.

    The patients in the two studies did not overlap and the methodologies differed, Hellwig noted, but the conclusions were similar: "breast feeding exclusively decreases the risk of relapses," she told an oral scientific session.

    The issue is controversial, because it's known that women with MS who bear children are at risk of a spike in relapses after delivery.

    Breast feeding has benefits for the child, but can't be combined with disease-modifying treatments for MS, so women have to choose "without clear advice to support either practice," Hellwig said.

    The women in both studies are enrolled in the German MS and Pregnancy Registry and were recruited through referrals, advertisements, and visits to Hellwig's clinic.

    For the prospective study, the researchers enrolled 72 women, including 34 who breast fed exclusively for at least four months, and 38 who did not.

    The key finding was that three patients in the breast feeding group -- or 9% -- suffered a relapse in the first six months. In contrast, 14 of the 38 who did not breast feed exclusively -- or 37% -- had a relapse.

    The difference was significant at P=0.005, Hellwig reported.

    The hazard ratio for relapse, after adjusting for treatment before conception, disease duration, relapse before and during pregnancy, and age, was 4.3, with a 95% confidence interval from 1.2 to 25.5.

    In the other cohort, Hellwig said, the researchers also observed a significant difference in relapse rate -- at P<0.001 -- between those who breast fed exclusively and those who did not.

    Hellwig cautioned that the both studies were subject to selection bias that might have affected the results. She also flagged the retrospective/prospective design of the larger cohort, which might have introduced recall biases.

    The studies, while interesting, are probably not enough to change clinical practice, according to Adil Javed, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, who was not part of the studies but who moderated the sessions at which they were presented.

    The implication is that breast feeding may offer the chance to delay medication, "but that's not what we do clinically," he told MedPage Today.

    It will take more research to persuade doctors to begin recommending breast feeding as an alternative to disease-modifying therapies such as interferon-beta or glatiramer acetate (Copaxone).

    In his practice, he said, he usually recommends women resume medication quickly, since the relapses after delivery are often much more severe than those before pregnancy.

    Source: MedPage Today © 2011 Everyday Health, Inc. (15/04/11)

    More evidence pregnancy is safe with MS

    Preganacy And MSA new research review strengthens the evidence that women with multiple sclerosis are about as likely as other women to have a healthy pregnancy -- without putting their own health at risk.

    The findings, reported in the obstetrics journal BJOG, support the advice generally given to women with multiple sclerosis: If the condition is under control, you can safely become pregnant.

    "A woman with multiple sclerosis can consider pregnancy just the same way all other women consider it," Dr. Yara D. Fragoso, a neurologist at the Universidade Metropolitana de Santos in Brazil, and the senior researcher on the new study, told Reuters Health.

    Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a nerve disorder thought to arise when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks that person's own nerve fibers. MS leads to symptoms like muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems and difficulty with coordination and balance.

    Years ago, women with MS were advised to avoid pregnancy, partly out of concern that it could make their disease worse.

    But studies in recent decades have shown that the opposite is true; many women see their symptoms improve or even disappear during pregnancy -- possibly because immune system activity naturally declines and levels of anti-inflammatory hormones called corticosteroids naturally rise during pregnancy.

    Recent studies have also suggested that women with MS are at no special risk of pregnancy complications.

    For the new review, Fragoso's team pulled together 22 international studies conducted since the 1980s, involving more than 13,000 women.

    Combining those results, they found that women's MS symptom flare-ups were slightly less common during pregnancy, and slightly more common for a short time after pregnancy.

    But during pregnancy, and in the 12 months before and after, the rate of symptom flare-ups -- known as relapses - never exceeded 1 per year.

    It's been known that MS relapses often increase in the few months following delivery. But that's not thought to raise a woman's long-term risk of disability.

    As far as pregnancy complications, Fragoso's team found that women with MS did not have a higher risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, having a low-birthweight baby or having a newborn with a birth defect.

    For instance, from country to country, preterm delivery rates ranged from about 9 in 100 to 11 in 100 -- similar to what would be expected for the general population.

    A recent U.S. study that involved more than 10,000 pregnant women with MS was by far the largest included in the analysis. In that study, 42 of every 100 women with MS had a cesarean section -- versus about 33 of every 100 other U.S. women.

    But there could be "cultural and geographical influences" at work when it comes to C-section, according to Fragoso's team. In a few other studies that looked at C-section rates among women with MS, the figure ranged from about 9 out of 100 to 17 out of 100.

    Overall, Fragoso told Reuters Health in an email, MS does not appear to have a "negative effect on the pregnancy and/or child, nor does the pregnancy seem to negatively affect the course of multiple sclerosis in the long term."

    It's still important for women with MS to work with their doctor when planning a pregnancy. One reason is that they may need to stop taking their MS medication. The so-called disease-modifying drugs are not approved for use during pregnancy, and research suggests that at least one -- beta-interferon -- may be associated with miscarriage.

    And throughout pregnancy, Fragoso said, a woman's neurologist and obstetrician should work together.

    Full Article - BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

    Source: Reuters (c) Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters (11/04/11)

    Vitamin D, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum MS relapses

    Pregnancy And MSAbstract
    Objective:  To determine whether low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) contribute to the increased risk of postpartum multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses.

    Design:  Prospective cohort study.

    Setting:  Outpatients identified through membership records of Kaiser Permanente Northern California or Stanford University outpatient neurology clinics.

    Patients:  Twenty-eight pregnant women with MS.

    Interventions:  We prospectively followed up patients through the postpartum year and assessed exposures and symptoms through structured interviews. Total serum 25(OH)D levels were measured using the DiaSorin Liaison Assay during the third trimester and 2, 4, and 6 months after giving birth. The data were analyzed using longitudinal multivariable methods.

    Main Outcome Measures:  Levels of 25(OH)D and relapse rate.

    Results:  Fourteen (50%) women breastfed exclusively, and 12 women (43%) relapsed within 6 months after giving birth. During pregnancy, the average 25(OH)D levels were 25.4 ng/mL (range, 13.7-42.6) and were affected only by season (P = .009). In contrast, in the postpartum period, 25(OH)D levels were significantly affected by breastfeeding and relapse status. Levels of 25(OH)D remained low in the exclusive breastfeeding group, yet rose significantly in the nonexclusive breastfeeding group regardless of season (P = .007, unadjusted; P = .02, adjusted for season). By 4 and 6 months after childbirth, 25(OH)D levels were, on average, 5 ng/mL lower in the women who breastfed exclusively compared with the nonbreastfeeding group (P = .001).

    Conclusions:  Pregnancy and exclusive breastfeeding are strongly associated with low 25(OH)D levels in women with MS. However, these lower vitamin D levels were not associated with an increased risk of postpartum MS relapses. These data suggest that low vitamin D in isolation is not an important risk factor for postpartum MS relapses.

    Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD; Stella Huang, MS, DO; Stephen K. Van Den Eeden, PhD; Rohit Gupta, BS; Amethyst D. Leimpeter, MS; Kathleen B. Albers, MPH; Ron Horst, PhD; Bruce Hollis, PhD; Lawrence Steinman, MD; Lorene M. Nelson, PhD

    Author Affiliations: Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena (Dr Langer-Gould); Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California (Drs Langer-Gould, Huang, Steinman, and Nelson and Mr Gupta); Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland (Drs Van Den Eeden and Leimpeter and Ms Albers); Heartland Assays Inc, Ames, Iowa (Dr Horst); and Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston (Dr Hollis). Dr Huang is now with Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois.

    Source: Arch Neurol. 2011;68(3):310-313. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.291 © 2011 American Medical Association. (15/03/11)

    The Brazilian database on pregnancy in multiple sclerosis

    Pregnancy & MSSummary
    As multiple sclerosis (MS) has a female predominance, the effect of pregnancy has been evaluated in a number of studies. In this study the results from the Brazilian national database on pregnancy in MS are reported.

    As in previous studies the relapse rate was found to be significantly decreased during pregnancy and higher after delivery. However, the postpartum relapse rate was lower than the year preceding conception. This may be related to the use of corticosteroids or immunoglobulin immediately after delivery for MS patients in Brazil.

    69.7% of the women studied were exposed to drugs for at least some time during pregnancy. The rate of obstetric, neonatal, and perinatal complications was low.

    Objectives: To report the results from the Brazilian database on multiple sclerosis (MS) and pregnancy.

    Methods: Retrospective data from MS patients who became pregnant at any time of their disease were sent to a Brazilian database, using a specific file for this purpose.

    Results: Data on 128 women (142 pregnancies) from 30 neurologists working in 21 cities in Brazil were collected. Patients' average age at pregnancy was 29.8 years (range 16-42). EDSS at start of pregnancy was 1.5±1.4; and the relapse rate in the year preceding pregnancy was 1.2±1.5. Exposure to medication at any time during pregnancy was high (69.7%): 48.6% to interferon beta; 14.1% to glatiramer acetate; and 7% to other immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive drugs. There was a significant decrease in relapse rate during pregnancy. The prevalence of complications was relatively low, with 4.9% of obstetric and 1.4% neonatal unfavourable outcomes.

    Conclusions: Our patients had low degrees of disability, short histories of disease, high drug exposure, and relatively high relapse rate in the year previous to pregnancy. Obstetric and neonatal outcomes were successful in over 90% of our patients.

    Finkelsztejn A, Fragoso YD, Ferreira ML, Lana-Peixoto MA, Alves-Leon SV, Gomes S, Damasceno BP, Mendes MF, Salgado PR, Correa EC, Comini-Frota ER, Diniz DS, Gama PD, Kaimen-Maciel DR, Morales RR, Arruda WO, Grzesiuk AK, Khouri JM, Lopes JS, Rocha CF, Domingues R, Gonçalves MV, Lorenti MA, Parolin MK, Siquineli F, Tosta ED, Brooks JB, Gallina AS, Melges LD, Ruocco HH.

    Sources: Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2010 Dec 13. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. & Pubmed PMID: 21159421 (05/01/11)

    Childbirth may slow Multiple Sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MSThe women who already have at least one child have a thirty-four percent less of the possibility of having a progressive state of multiple sclerosis.

    According to studies, those women who do not have children yet are more likely to reach a stage of MS where they would need assistance in walking with a brace or a cane.

    Having a child before or after the symptoms of multiple sclerosis started to appear is of great help. On the other hand, those women who had children even after the onset of their disease’s symptoms were much better off. Either way, it seems that pregnancy helps in cases of multiple sclerosis.

    What the experts say

    In fact, according to an expert from the Department of Neurology at the National MS Centrum which is located in Mesbroek, Belgium, named Marie D’hooghe, women who have multiple sclerosis and children tend to have a benign type of MS. This finding is in comparison to those women who have not yet given birth.

    Research on multiple sclerosis indicates that eighty-five percent of those who unluckily develop MS initially have a relapsing – remitting type. This means that attacks associated with this particular disease are usually followed by either total or partial recovery. More than fifty percent actually have a progressive state of the disease.

    When this happens, the symptoms become much worse and more difficult to handle, and the rest periods where the symptoms disappear for a while become shorter. After some time, the MS process will lead to having a loss of vision, or worse, paralysis.

    Women are more at risk than men.

    Research has it that females are more predisposed to having multiple sclerosis. However, such cases are less severe as compared to the severity of the disease in males.

    In the study conducted by the researchers mentioned, three-quarters of the female respondents have already had children. What the researchers did was they monitored the duration needed before the women reached sixth level based on the EDSS or the Expanded Disability Status Scale.

    The Expanded Disability Status Scale

    The EDSS is a system for rating that is used as a tool by many physicians for determining the severity of the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. For instance, first level means the severity is least severe, level ten means death is near. On the sixth level, it means that he or she needs to make use of an assistive device for mobility.

    Research findings

    For those who have no experience of giving birth usually had an average of thirteen up to fifteen years before finally progressing to the sixth level on the EDSS. On the other hand, those who already have children took some twenty-two up to twenty-three years before reaching that stage.

    Moreover, the Director of the biomedical research from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Patricia O’Looney, say that there are indeed benefits for female patients who have already had children. Still, however, there is not enough data derived from their demographics to totally come up with some conclusions.

    Source: Health & Fitness 101 (21/09/10)

    Could the enzyme Pyruvate Kinase be key to MS remission during pregnancy?

    Pregnancy and MSDuring pregnancy, many women experience remission of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and uveitis and scientists have described a biological mechanism they say is responsible for changes in the immune system that helps explain that remission.

    The expression of an enzyme known as pyruvate kinase is reduced in immune cells in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women, says biophysicist Howard R. Petty from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, and Roberto Romero, M.D., of the National Institutes for Health.

    Their study coming in the August issue of the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology also reports that expression of the enzyme is lower in pregnant women compared to those with pre-eclampsia, a condition with inflammatory components.

    They say the study is significant because the newly discovered mechanism points to a pathway that could be targeted for treatment. "It may be possible to design drugs that mildly suppress pyruvate kinase activity as a means of replicating the immune status of normal pregnancy," says Petty. In addition to pre-eclampsia, he believes that rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and uveitis may eventually yield to similarly designed drugs.

    In his search to explain the phenomenon, Petty says they knew to look for a metabolic pathway or mechanism with two characteristics; it had to reduce the intensity of the normal immune response, needed so that pregnant women do not reject their babies, which has proteins from the father that are "foreign" to the mother and it also must support cell growth needed by the developing fetus.

    The activity of the enzyme pyruvate kinase and and its product, pyruvate, fills both roles -  promoting cell growth while modifying the immune response. Because pyruvate kinase activity is depressed during pregnancy, cell metabolism supports an increased production of lipids, carbohydrates, amino acids, and other substances that support cell growth.

    Petty explains that our normal robust immune response depends upon pyruvate to promote calcium signaling, which, in turn, stimulates the production of messenger molecules called cytokines. When pyruvate is decreased during pregnancy, calcium signaling is also reduced, and the immune response is different than that in non-pregnant individuals.  "Modification of signaling along this pathway allows the pregnant woman to maintain an immune response, but at a level that will not harm the fetus."

    The study included 21 women in their third trimester of a normal pregnancy, 25 women with pre-eclampsia, and a control group of non-pregnant women. Petty and colleagues used a variety of methods to confirm their findings, including fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, which are used to study cell signaling.

    The higher levels of the enzyme seen in women with pre-eclampsia bolster the study's findings, says Petty.

    "Pre-eclampsia has features of inflammatory disease. If you don't reduce these pyruvate levels, you heighten inflammatory disease," he adds. Petty says one day enzyme levels could be tested early in pregnancy to predict the likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia or other complications.

    It is possible, says Petty, that the general mechanisms described in the current study may apply to more than one complication of pregnancy. This possibility—and that of designing drugs to suppress pyruvate kinase activity—is the focus of future research. "I have a long list of things I'd like to see developed for the clinic in the next five years," adds Petty.

    Source: Scientific Blogging © 2010 ION Publications LLC (18/06/10)

    Postpartum steroid dose reduces Multiple Sclerosis relapses

    CorticosteroidsA single dose of methylprednisolone given to new mothers with multiple sclerosis immediately after delivery reduced the risk of relapse for up to three months, researchers found.

    During the first postpartum trimester, relapses occurred in 18% of new mothers who received 1 g of intravenous methylprednisolone compared with 46% of those not receiving treatment (P=0.0448), according to data presented here at the meeting of the Joint Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers and America's Committee on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

    In the following six months, there was no difference in the relapse rates between the two groups, Jose Avila, MD, of the Maxine Mesinger MS Comprehensive Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, reported.

    Preliminary work from other centers has suggested that IV methylprednisolone might be effective in reducing the relapse rate after birth. Avila's group had been using this treatment in many new mothers at their clinic and so performed a retrospective analysis of their outcomes to further understand its potential.

    The researchers examined 50 patients with relapsing-remitting MS and two with primary progressive disease. Of those, 39 had received steroid treatment immediately after giving birth, and 13 had not. The mean ages of the women were the same in each group, as was the mean disability score. Both groups had similar relapse rates in the year before pregnancy, and each group contained one patient with the primary progressive form of the disease.

    The results of the trial suggest that IV methylprednisolone immediately postpartum may be an important treatment option for women with MS, Avila said, although larger and prospective trials are needed first.

    He also indicated that a second dose of methylprednisolone may be worth investigating, to determine if it can reduce relapse rate later into the postpartum period.

    Prior research has demonstrated that relapse rates rise immediately following delivery. An alternative treatment, intravenous immunoglobulin, is significantly more expensive and more complex to administer than IV methylprednisolone.

    "It was not actually expected that there would be such a difference between the two groups, but it is compelling to think that it could be somewhat preventative," said Kathleen Costello, MS, MSCN, of the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center. "Although data support that long-term outcomes are equal whether you have a relapse in the postpartum period or not, a relapse is the last thing a new mother is going to need in the first 12 weeks after delivery. So if this is a safe method of reducing that risk, I think it is a good idea. We'll need more data and replication, but I think it is very compelling."

    Limitations of the study include its small sample size and retrospective nature, so caution should be exercised when considering the likely efficacy of this approach in other patients.

    Source: International Journal of MS Care
    Source reference:
    Avila J, et al "The role of post-partum intravenous corticosteroids in the prevention of relapses in multiple sclerosis" International J MS Care 2010; 12(suppl1): 45.

    Medpage Today © 2004-2010 MedPage Today, LLC (07/06/10)

    Multiple sclerosis and pregnancy: what does the patient think? A questionnaire study

    MS and PregnancyMultiple Sclerosis (MS) is primarily a disease of women in their childbearing years.

    Pregnancy and puerperium have opposite effects on the course of the disease.

    Nevertheless, no studies have been carried out yet on the level of information among female MS-patients regarding the interaction between MS and pregnancy.

    Findings: Demographic data, clinical features of MS, course of MS during pregnancy and puerperium as well as knowledge concerning MS and pregnancy were evaluated by means of a questionnaire in 154 female MS-patients. The level of information was significantly higher (p<0.001) in women who had been pregnant in the past with the diagnosis MS known at this point of time.

    Furthermore patients reported about a lower frequency of relapses during pregnancy and a higher frequency of relapses in the first six months after giving birth.

    Conclusions: The findings illustrate a lack of knowledge in female MS-patients concerning the interactions of MS and pregnancy. In order to make their own independent decision based on scientific facts known to date, female MS-patients need to be better informed on issues regarding MS and pregnancy.

    Author: Peter AlbrechtDorothea Fischer Andreas Moser
    Credits BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:91

    Source: 7th Space Interactive (06/04/10)

    Pregnancy changes the expression of inflammation-related genes in patients with Multiple Sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MSPregnancy is associated with reduced activity of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the biological mechanisms underlying this pregnancy-related decrease in disease activity are poorly understood.

    We conducted a genome-wide transcription analysis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 12 women (7 MS patients and 5 healthy controls) followed during their pregnancy. Samples were obtained before, during (i.e. at the third, sixth, and ninth month of gestation) and after pregnancy. A validation of the expression profiles has been conducted by using the same samples and an independent group of 25 MS patients and 11 healthy controls. Finally, considering the total group of 32 MS patients, we compared expression profiles of patients relapsing during pregnancy (n = 6) with those of relapse-free patients (n = 26).

    Results showed an altered expression of 347 transcripts in non-pregnant MS patients with respect to non-pregnant healthy controls. Complementary changes in expression, occurring during pregnancy, reverted the previous imbalance particularly for seven inflammation-related transcripts, i.e. SOCS2, TNFAIP3, NR4A2, CXCR4, POLR2J, FAM49B, and STAG3L1. Longitudinal analysis showed that the overall deregulation of gene expression reverted to “normal” already within the third month of gestation, while in the post-partum gene expressions rebounded to pre-pregnancy levels. Six (18.7%) of the 32 MS patients had a relapse during pregnancy, mostly in the first trimester. The latter showed delayed expression profiles when compared to relapse-free patients: in these patients expression imbalance was reverted later in the pregnancy, i.e. at sixth month.

    Specific changes in expression during pregnancy were associated with a decrease in disease activity assessed by occurrence of relapses during pregnancy. Findings might help in understanding the pathogenesis of MS and may provide basis for the development of novel therapeutic strategies.

    Francesca Gilli1*, Raija L. P. Lindberg2, Paola Valentino1, Fabiana Marnetto1, Simona Malucchi1, Arianna Sala1, Marco Capobianco1, Alessia di Sapio1, Francesca Sperli1, Ludwig Kappos2, Raffaele A. Calogero3, Antonio Bertolotto1

    1 Regional Centre for Multiple Sclerosis (CReSM) and Clinical Neurobiology, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Luigi Gonzaga, Orbassano, Italy, 2 Departments of Biomedicine and Neurology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland, 3 Genomics and Bioinformatics Unit, Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Luigi Gonzaga, Orbassano, Italy

    Full Paper -

    Source: PLoS ONE © 2010 Gilli et al. (02/02/10)

    Interferon-gamma-producing T cells, pregnancy, and postpartum relapses of multiple sclerosis

    MS and PregnancyIt is well known that in women with MS, the relapse rate decreases during pregnancy and can increase after delivery. The authors of this study propose that this increase of the relapse rate after pregnancy may be related to an immunological process (reflected by the decline in a specific type of immune cell) which starts during late pregnancy. They also suggest that this process can be interrupted by lactational amenorrhea (physiological suppression of menstruation while nursing) induced by exclusive breastfeeding.

    OBJECTIVE: To determine whether fluctuations in functional T-cell subsets can explain why multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses decline during pregnancy and increase in the postpartum period.

    DESIGN: Case-control study.

    SETTING: Kaiser Permanente Northern California and Stanford University.

    PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-six pregnant women with MS and 24 age-matched, pregnant controls. Intervention We prospectively followed up the pregnant women with MS and the age-matched, pregnant controls; conducted structured interviews; and collected peripheral blood mononuclear cells during each trimester and 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months post partum.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sixteen functional cell types, including interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)- and tumor necrosis factor-producing T-cell subsets, were measured using multicolor flow cytometry. Since these cell types may also fluctuate with pregnancy, lactational amenorrhea, or MS treatment, the data were analyzed taking into account these factors.

    RESULTS: Fifteen women with MS (58%) had relapses during the postpartum year. CD4(+)IFN-gamma-producing cells fluctuated with MS relapses, declining during pregnancy in women with MS (P < .001) and continuing to decline after parturition in women with relapses (P = .001), yet rising or remaining stable in women with nonrelapsing MS or healthy pregnant women. Lactational amenorrhea was associated with a rise in CD4(+)IFN-gamma-producing cells in women with MS (P = .009). In contrast, CD4(+) tumor necrosis factor-producing cells decreased during lactational amenorrhea in all groups of women and, once this was taken into account, obscured any relationship to MS relapses. CD8(+)IFN-gamma-producing cells were elevated in women with MS throughout the study (P < .001) but did not fluctuate with relapses.

    CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that a decline in circulating CD4(+)IFN-gamma-producing cells leads to postpartum MS relapses. Our findings also suggest that the decline in these cells may begin during late pregnancy and that lactational amenorrhea induced by exclusive breastfeeding may be able to interrupt this process.

    Langer-Gould A, Gupta R, Huang S, Hagan A, Atkuri K, Leimpeter AD, Albers KB, Greenwood E, Van Den Eeden SK, Steinman L, Nelson LM.

    Department of Health Research and Policy, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

    Source: Pubmed PMID: 20065129 (20/01/10)

    Multiple Sclerosis progress slowed by giving birth, Belgian doctors say

    MS and PregnancyGiving birth seems to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), Belgian and Dutch researchers say.

    The researchers tracked 330 women with MS for 18 years and found that among those who had children, severe disability took longer to develop.

    Writing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, they say previous studies have suggested a worsening of MS just after birth.

    But the MS Society said the study was flawed and further research was needed.

    MS is a long-term inflammatory condition of the central nervous system.

    It affects the transfer of messages from the nervous system to the rest of the body.

    Women are twice as likely to develop MS as men and many of the new cases will be among women of childbearing age.

    The researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands said all the women had been referred to one specialist centre and had had their first symptoms from the ages of 22 to almost 38.

    Nearly a quarter of the women (24%) were childless; 170 had given birth before their symptoms developed (52%); 61 had their children after their symptoms developed (18%); and 19 had had children both before and afterwards (6%).

    'Speed of progression'

    The researchers used the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) which runs from one to 10, where 10 is death from MS and six is when an individual needs a cane, a crutch or a brace to walk 100m.

    After an average of 18 years living with MS, over half the women (55%) were categorised as EDSS six.

    They found that both the likelihood and speed of progression were affected by childbirth.

    Women who had given birth to one or more children at any point before or after the start of MS symptoms were 34% less likely to progress to EDSS six than childless women.

    Women whose children had been born after their MS began were 39% less likely to progress to EDSS six than women who had not had children.

    They said this held true even after taking account of the age at which symptoms began.

    Women who had no children after their MS symptoms started progressed to EDSS six within 13 to 15 years on average.

    But women who did have children took an average of 22 to 23 years to reach this stage.

    'Beneficial effect'

    Dr Maria D'hooghe, from the National MS Centre in Melsbroek, Belgium, which co-ordinated the study, said it had shown for the first time the long-term effects of having a baby if you have MS.

    She said: "It's possible that the hormones released in pregnancy are having a beneficial effect on the immune system.

    "Certainly, animal studies show that pregnancy can lead to less damage in their brains.

    "The other possibility is that it is lifestyle changes caused by having a baby that are delaying the effects of MS perhaps through increased activity or changes in the way we deal with stress."

    But Dr Susan Kohlhaas, research communications officer for the MS Society, said it was a small study and they had not taken account of the fact that women with more severe MS may choose not to get pregnant because they are worried about a relapse or about taking care of a baby during a relapse.

    She said: "It is difficult to form any meaningful conclusions from this research given the small size of the study and its flaws, but further studies will hopefully clarify the effects of pregnancy in women with MS."

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2009 (24/11/09)

    Multiple Sclerosis need not preclude pregnancy

    Pregnancy in MSNew research suggests that having multiple sclerosis puts pregnant women at slightly higher risk for giving birth via cesarean deliveries or having babies that grow at a slower rate in the womb.

    But the researchers, whose findings were published online Nov. 18 in Neurology, also reported that pregnant women with MS were not more likely than other women to develop such conditions as preeclampsia or premature rupture of membranes.

    The findings came from an examination of a national database that included details on about 18.8 million childbirths in 38 states, including deliveries by an estimated 10,000 women with MS.

    The two groups of pregnant women differed somewhat. Those with MS were more likely than those without chronic medical conditions to have fetuses that suffered from restricted growth, as defined by weight measured through ultrasound. Among women with MS, 2.7 percent had fetuses in that category, compared with 1.9 percent of other women.

    Women with MS were also more likely to have a cesarean delivery: 42 percent had a c-section, compared with 33 percent of other women.

    However, the study found that women with MS had lower pregnancy complication rates than did women who had diabetes before becoming pregnant.

    "These results are reassuring for women with MS," study author Dr. Eliza Chakravarty. of Stanford University School of Medicine. said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

    "Women and their doctors have been uncertain about the effect of MS on pregnancy, and some women have chosen to delay or even avoid pregnancy due to the uncertainty," Chakravarty said. "We found that women with MS did not have an increased risk of most pregnancy complications."

    Source: My Optimum © 2009 OptumHealth, Inc. (19/11/09)

    Pregnancy and multiple sclerosis: the initial results from a Brazilian database

    Pregnancy and MSPURPOSE: Pregnancy management poses an extra challenge to physicians and their multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. There are few papers reporting databases on the subject.

    METHOD: Brazilian database from nine MS clinical and research units, with complete data on 47 pregnant women (49 pregnancies).

    RESULTS: Despite relatively high exposure to MS medications, no birth defects were reported. Low birth weight and prematurity were similar to those for developing countries. Three complications may have been associated with these medications, while three others were considered to be of purely obstetric nature.

    CONCLUSION: Our results confirm previous findings on lower relapse rate during pregnancy and add to the present literature informing on data related to drug exposure.

    Fragoso YD, Finkelsztejn A, Comini-Frota ER, da Gama PD, Grzesiuk AK, Khouri JM, Alves-Leon SV, Morales Rde R, Lana-Peixoto MA, Rocha CF.
    Universidade Metropolitana de Santos, Santos, SP, Brazil.

    Source: Pubmed PMID: 19722044 (09/09/09)

    Breast-feeding beneficial for most mothers with MS

    Breast Feeding

    New mothers with multiple sclerosis who want to breast-feed but worry it might cause their disease to relapse may be reassured by a new study that discovered this is not the case for most women.

    The study, in the June 8 issue of Archives of Neurology, found that almost two out of three women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who breast-fed exclusively for two months or more and who were not taking MS medications did not experience a relapse of their disease while they were breast-feeding.

    "The most important thing for patients and physicians to know is that there's no evidence that breast-feeding is harmful for women with MS," said study author Dr. Annette Langer-Gould, who was at Stanford University at the time of the study but is now a neurologist and research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena.

    "If mothers decide to breast-feed and do what's best for baby, we couldn't see any evidence of risk, and it may even be better for mothers to breast-feed," she said.

    How breast-feeding might help suppress a relapse, despite a lack of medications, isn't clear. In people with MS, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, a substance that covers nerve fibers.

    Langer-Gould said that researchers have long known that women with MS often go into remission during pregnancy, which might indicate that hormones play some role in dampening the immune response that causes damage to the myelin. However, she said. the study's finding of continued MS remission during breast-feeding would suggest that pregnancy hormones, which decrease dramatically once the baby is delivered, cannot be the only reason for the suppression of MS.

    "Previous research has ignored the postpartum factor, and what our study suggests -- if these findings can be repeated -- is that it's probably a factor that's common to pregnancy and lactation," Langer-Gould said.

    Prolactin, a hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk and suppresses ovulation could be such a factor, suggested Patricia A. O'Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    "There's been some interest in prolactin, which has been shown to stimulate repair and myelination, but we don't know the complete story yet," O'Looney said.

    Whatever the reason behind it, Langer-Gould and her colleagues found that women who breast-fed exclusively for at least two months were five times less likely to have a relapse than those who didn't breast-feed at all.

    The study included 32 pregnant women with MS and 29 age-matched women who were pregnant and healthy. Overall, women who chose to breast-feed exclusively began menstruating again at a later time than did women who did not breast-feed. In women with MS, the researchers found that a lack of menstruation due to breast-feeding was associated with a reduced risk of postpartum relapse.

    Of the women with MS, 52 percent chose not to breast-feed, and 87 percent of them experienced a disease relapse within two months. Just 36 percent of women who were breast-feeding had an MS relapse within two months, the study found.

    Langer-Gould said that even after adjusting the data to account for the possibility that women who were sicker before pregnancy would be less likely to breast-feed, the incidence of reduced relapse remained.

    "The findings were still robust," she said.

    O'Looney, who described the findings as "an interesting study that needs further confirmation," recommended that women with MS who are thinking about breast-feeding consult their doctors.

    "Every case is different, and one should make the decision based on many things," she said. "Some women may have weakness in their arms and be physically unable to breast-feed. Women have to weigh all of their options, such as how active their disease was before pregnancy. And, even though this study was encouraging, the possibility of relapse wasn't eliminated. We never want to send the message that a woman who chooses not to or cannot breast-feed should feel guilty in any way."

    SOURCES: Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and research scientist, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena, Calif.; Patricia A. O'Looney, Ph.D., vice president, biomedical research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City; June 8, 2009, Archives of Neurology

    Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.(09/06/09)

    Does breastfeeding inhibit Multiple Sclerosis relapses?

    Breast Feeding and MS

    A study released today says that breastfeeding may reduce multiple sclerosis(MS) relapses.   Sorry guys, this only helps women MS sufferers and only after pregnancy.

    For the study, researchers followed 32 pregnant women with MS and 29 pregnant women without MS during each trimester and up to a year after they gave birth. The women were interviewed about their breastfeeding and menstrual period history.

    A total of 52 percent of the women with MS did not breastfeed or began supplemental formula feedings within two months of giving birth. Of those, 87 percent had a relapse after pregnancy compared to 36 percent of women with MS who breastfed exclusively for at least two months after pregnancy.

    Sixty percent of the women reported their main reason for not breastfeeding exclusively was to start taking MS treatments again. Women who began taking MS treatments within the first two months after giving birth had significantly higher risk of suffering a relapse than women with MS who did not start taking medications early, regardless of whether they breastfed. Those who breastfed exclusively got their menstrual periods back later than the women who did not breastfeed or began early supplemental feedings.

    "Our findings call into question the benefit of choosing not to breastfeed or stopping breastfeeding early in order to start taking MS therapies," said study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, of Stanford University in California, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Larger studies need to be done on whether women should delay taking MS medications in order to breastfeed."

    The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Wadsworth Foundation.

    Results will also be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25 to May 2, 2009.

    Source: Scientificblogging © 2009 ION Publications LLC (20/02/09)

    Increase in relapse rate during assisted reproduction technique in patients with Multiple Sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MS

    The objective was to determine if there is an increased risk to develop exacerbations in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) after assisted reproduction technique (ART).

    An increase in annual relapse rate (ARR) was described after ART in a small cohort of patients.

    We investigated the associations between ART and relapse rate (RR) in 23 MS patients who underwent 78 hormonal stimulations in total. There was a statistically significant increase in the RR following ART independent of the hormonal approach or the time interval between the stimulations.

    These results suggest that female MS patients who wish to have children should be informed that the RR may be increasing if ART is necessary.

    Hellwig K, Schimrigk S, Beste C, Muller T, Gold R.

    Department of Neurology, St. Josef Hospital, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.

    Source: Pubmed PMID: 19039223 (02/12/08)

    Pregnancy and multiple sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MS

    At any one time, there are around 20 000 women of childbearing age with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK who may be considering having children. Neurologists can be asked for information from both patients and obstetric colleagues on a range of topics related to pregnancy and MS that extend beyond the well-known implications for relapse risk. This article aims to provide a brief overview for the general neurologist of the most commonly encountered issues and questions including those occasionally related to pregnancy management. The take-home message is that pregnancy does not hold adverse risks for the majority of patients with MS, or vice versa.

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system with onset typically in the second to third decade and is twice as prevalent in females as males. In the past, there has been speculation that pregnancy, together with other stressful life events, adversely affects the risk of relapse1 or the course of the disease.2 In fact, pregnancy appears to be associated with a temporary beneficial immune state for patients with MS partly mediated through an effect on T lymphocyte subsets. This effect may have relevance for autoimmune diseases in general.

    The pathogenesis of MS remains incompletely understood but involves a maladaptive humoral and cell-mediated immune response to an as-yet undetermined antigen(s). The popular model begins with peripheral T cell sensitisation in response to macrophage presentation of a foreign "myelin mimicking" antigen in association with MHC class II.3 This results in peripherally activated T cells expressing, and recognising, vascular adhesion molecules facilitating their entry to the central nervous system (CNS). Inside the CNS, activated T cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines resulting in upregulation of local CNS microglia to antigen-presenting cells with the capacity to present self-myelin and other myelin-associated proteins. This leads to an "epitope spreading" phenomenon and further secondary activation of T cells triggering an autoimmune inflammatory cascade. A direct and bystander inflammatory response results in CNS conduction block, demyelination and axonal damage that variably contribute to reversible and persistent neuronal dysfunction with associated neurological disability. Other models of disease pathogenesis exist such as persistence of a foreign viral antigen as the perpetuating stimulus,4 but most models place T cells centre stage.

    T cells can be subdivided into cytotoxic and helper T cells. The latter are associated with the MHC class II linked immune response underlying MS and subdivide into type-1 (Th-1) and type-2 (Th-2) helper cells. Th-1 cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL2, INF- and TNF-, while Th-2 cells are broadly antagonistic, secreting IL-6 and IL-10 which suppress the Th-1 response and drive B cell maturation and antibody production.5 MS is believed primarily to be a Th-1 driven immune state with Th-1 associated pro-inflammatory cytokines promoting blood–brain barrier breakdown, further immune cell recruitment, myelin and axonal injury. The balance between Th-1 and Th-2 associated immune states therefore influences disease activity and itself appears hormonally sensitive with pregnancy favouring a Th-2 type response.

    Pregnancy, by necessity, involves a relative state of immunosuppression as the fetus carries paternally derived antigens, and it is likely that high levels of oestrogen associated with pregnancy contribute to this. Oestrogen is known to be associated with a Th-2 type immune response and downregulation of microglial activity, and has been shown to suppress extrinsic allergic encephalomyeltis (EAE), an animal model of MS.6 There has been particular interest in the immunosuppressive role of oestriol, an oestrogen produced by the fetal–placental unit and detected only during pregnancy. Oestriol levels appear to mirror most closely the reduction in relapse frequency seen during the third trimester of pregnancy, and there has already been a pilot study of estriol as a therapeutic agent in non-pregnant patients with MS that reported an 80% reduction in MRI disease activity over 6 months.7 A follow-on phase II/III clinical trial is currently under way of oestriol as add-on therapy to Copaxone in female MS patients.

    Unfortunately, the immunosuppressive oestrogen profile found in pregnancy does not appear to translate into a similar protective benefit in women with lower oestrogen levels seen outside pregnancy. Oestrogen levels in non-pregnant females appear associated with microglial upregulation and a less favourable Th-1 type immune response.8

    There are a large number of other factors potentially linked with an immunosuppressive Th-2 associated immune response during pregnancy,9 10 an effect likely to be as beneficial to patients with other autoimmune diseases11 as it is to patients with MS.12 Of these factors, it is perhaps worth singling out the hormonal form of vitamin D, calcitriol. Calcitriol levels peak in the first trimester and fall rapidly postpartum, inversely reflecting MS disease activity. Outside pregnancy, low levels of vitamin D associated with reduced sun exposure with increasing latitude have been linked with MS susceptibility.13 The perceived immunosuppressive benefit of vitamin D has led to small pilot studies of vitamin D supplementation in patients with MS,14 though no firm conclusions regarding efficacy can yet be made.

    In summary, hormonal and cytokine changes during pregnancy appear linked with a Th-2 type immune state likely to be beneficial for patients with autoimmune inflammatory conditions such as MS. Further knowledge of the nature of this effect may provide insight into additional treatment strategies for patients with MS.


    During the first half of the twentieth century, it was generally held that pregnancy adversely affected the risk of relapse and course of the disease in patients with MS,2 and therapeutic abortion was occasionally advocated. Several retrospective studies15 16 and more latterly results of the Pregnancy in Multiple Sclerosis (PRIMS) study10 have dispelled this myth, showing that pregnancy is probably neutral overall in terms of disease activity. The prospective PRIMS study of 227 European women with MS who had a full-term delivery reported a reduction in relapse rate during pregnancy, most marked in the third trimester, with a compensatory increase in the first postpartum trimester before returning to prepregnancy levels. An approximate 70% reduction in relapse rate was seen in the third trimester (double that of currently licensed standard disease modifying therapies (DMTs)). There was a similar increase above background prepregnancy rates for the first trimester postpartum. Overall, therefore, in the year which includes pregnancy and the 3 months after birth, the total number of relapses is similar to other years.

    The clinical reduction in relapse activity during pregnancy is accompanied by evidence of a reduction in MRI activity. There was a marked reduction in new or enhancing disease activity on serial brain MRI scanning in two patients with MS who became pregnant while already enrolled on an MRI study. MRI lesion activity returned to prepregnancy levels postpartum.17

    While the reduction in relapse rate during pregnancy is welcome, the risk of relapse postpartum raises questions about preventive therapy options. It is not possible to identify particular individuals at high risk for purposes of targeted therapy trials, but there have been a few small retrospective case series reports of both intravenous methylprednisolone18 and intravenous immunoglobulin19 given in the postpartum period to patients with MS. These studies suggest a reduction in relapse frequency (of 30–60%) but do not provide an evidence base on which to recommend treatment in the absence of any controlled trial data. Current practice is to consider treatment of postpartum relapse in the usual way with a short course of methylprednisolone. This is generally felt not to have significant implications for breast feeding. Intravenous immunoglobulin is generally avoided due to the potential for neonatal exposure to pooled blood product with intravenous immunoglobulin.


    Disease progression was not affected by pregnancy in the PRIMS study, although the majority of patients had relapsing remitting disease, and follow-up was relatively short. Most other studies have not found any adverse effect of pregnancy on disease progression,21 and some reports suggest a favourable effect with increased time to progressive disease onset following pregnancy.20 However, despite age and disability matching, it is difficult to remove conceptive behaviour bias from these studies. It does seem reasonable to conclude that there is at least no adverse effect of pregnancy on subsequent disease course.


    There is no evidence that oestrogen at doses contained in the combined contraceptive pill has an adverse effect on MS.22 A single study did suggest a slightly lower rate of MS onset in women taking the pill, although this difference was not statistically significant.23 Oestrogen-containing oral contraceptives have been shown to suppress EAE in rats.24 Caution is advised only in patients at increased risk of deep venous thrombosis due to immobility.

    MS appears to have no physiological effect on fertility,25 although sexual dysfunction may impact conception. Studies have highlighted the high prevalence of symptoms of sexual dysfunction in both male (around 65%) and female (around 40%) patients with MS compared with around 10% of case controls.26 These symptoms are highly under-reported during routine care.27

    Susceptibility to multiple sclerosis is predicated upon a complex interaction between many individual genes and the external environment. The risk to offspring is small but can cause concern. Counselling for families with multiple sclerosis has been extensively reviewed elsewhere.28 29 Overall, parents can be reassured that the age-adjusted lifetime risk of an offspring developing multiple sclerosis is only around 4% if one parent has MS (the same rate as the frequency of birth defects in the population), although this is significantly greater than the background population risk of 0.2%. The rate can, however, be as high as 30% if both parents are affected.

    Pregnancy outcome
    Using the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry between 1967 and 2002, the outcomes of 649 births to women with MS were compared with births (2 million) in the remaining population. Higher rates of operative deliveries were seen in the MS group (OR 1.54); these included an increase in elective caesarean section together with an increase in unplanned instrumental deliveries. Slow progress in the second stage of labour was seen twice as frequently in MS patients, and there were increased rates of labour induction. The proportion of neonates small for gestational age was also increased (OR 1.45). However, there was no difference in Apgar scores, birth defects or perinatal mortality.30

    There is no evidence showing that patients with MS are at higher risk of developing stress-related urinary incontinence postpartum despite the potential for a longer second stage and slightly higher rate of instrumentation. Mode of delivery did not appear to influence the frequency of urinary disorders in a study of 273 MS patients having at least one pregnancy.31


    Information on the risks of prednisolone and methylprednisolone in pregnancy is limited. The FDA places these drugs in group C (no adequate human or animal studies), though there have been concerns in the past that oral steroids in pregnancy might increase the risk of oral clefts.32 Greater experience now suggests, however, that this risk, if it exists, is small, and they are generally considered relatively safe. Theoretical concerns about fetal/neonatal adrenal suppression have not been borne out. Any fetal risks are likely to be small, primarily because this form of steroid is largely metabolised by the placenta so that very little reaches the fetus.

    Current guidelines suggest stopping DMTs 3 months prior to conception for planned pregnancies. When conception on DMTs does occur, management is discussed with patients on a case-by-case basis, though the general recommendation is that they should consider stopping therapy due to a lack of evidence of safety. Animal data using 40 times the equivalent dose do not result in teratogenicity but do have an abortive effect.33 Exposure data are few for disease modifying agents in patients with MS. A review of 41 pregnancies from 3361 MS patients across eight interferon-β (IFN) trials with in utero exposure suggested a non-significant increase in the rate of spontaneous abortion compared with population estimates but no overall increase in pregnancy loss or increased rate of anomaly.34

    A second report in the same journal of 23 IFN exposed pregnancies found a higher rate of pregnancy loss and lower birth weight (200 g, similar to that seen in smokers).35 The degree to which the large molecule IFN crosses the placental barrier is not known, although it was not detectable in the fetal blood from two women taking IFN.36 In the end, it might be argued that the advice to stop IFN use in pregnancy is strengthened by the knowledge that the risk of relapse on stopping DMTs may well be mitigated by the natural reduction in relapse rate associated with pregnancy itself.

    Other drugs occasionally used in MS may also need to be considered. Azathioprine has not been associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations and is considered relatively safe in pregnancy. Methotrexate should be avoided because of its known abortifacient effects and risk of malformations. The need for other symptomatic medication such as antispasticity or neuropathic pain medication should be reviewed with the patient on an individual basis prior to pregnancy.


    Questions regarding management during pregnancy can arise for the neurologist, particularly if the patient with MS has significant neurological disability. Overall, patients can be reassured that the majority will have no particular difficulties during their pregnancy, labour and delivery. Occasional difficulties similar to those seen in patients with spinal cord injury can occur in MS patients, particularly those with spinal variants of MS or in those undertaking pregnancy with very advanced MS.

    Some MS patients with existing mobility difficulties report further reduction in mobility and increased spasticity as the pregnancy progresses due to increasing weight and changes in the centre of gravity. They should also be warned against falls and may need increased physical therapy.

    Pregnancy is a prothrombotic state, and immobile pregnant women are at significant risk of thromboembolism. Thromboprophylaxis with compression stockings, low-dose aspirin or heparin may need to be considered.

    Urinary tract infections (UTIs) with ureteric reflux and pyelonephritis are more common during pregnancy, particularly with a pre-existing neurogenic bladder and may require an increase in the frequency of intermittent catheterisation. Frequent or chronic urinary tract infections can also increase the risk of preterm labour (PTL) (ie, labour before 37 weeks of gestation), and some women with recurrent UTIs may need long-term low-dose prophylactic antibiotics for the duration of the pregnancy. Women with MS are not otherwise at a higher risk of preterm labour but may be less able to detect the symptoms of PTL if there is significant spinal involvement above T6. These patients should be aware of this possibility and in severe cases have instruction on uterine palpation techniques or consider home monitoring with a portable uterine activity sensor.

    There are case reports of autonomic dysreflexia (ADR) in patients with advanced MS.37 The risk is highest in patients with significant spinal cord pathology above T6, the level of splanchnic outflow, but can occur at lower levels. Loss of descending inhibitory spinal cord input and exacerbated afferent stimuli leads to sympathetic overactivity with vasoconstriction and hypertension below the level of spinal pathology and compensatory symptoms of parasympathetic overactivity (profuse diaphoresis, flushing and nasal congestion) above. Hypertension can be severe enough to precipitate seizures if untreated. Management is primarily through the awareness of precipitants (cold stirrups, vaginal examinations, catheter blockage) and early recognition (20–40 mm Hg systolic rise above baseline, headache and flushing). Rarely, pharmacological intervention with oral nifedipine may be required together with expedited delivery. Early use of epidural anaesthesia may be advocated in those at higher risk of ADR,38 particularly if induction of labour is being considered.

    There are usually no other particular issues during labour in patients with MS. The uterus is under neurohormonal control, so contractions are not adversely affected by spinal pathology in MS. The first stage of labour usually progresses as normal. Once the fetus descends into the pelvis, a minority of patients may require assistance with forceps or ventouse if pushing is impaired. While an increase in instrumental delivery rates was seen in the PRIMS study (3.4% to 7%), this was small. There is no evidence that epidural anaesthesia is contraindicated in patients with MS.


    Breastfeeding is usually unaffected in patients with multiple sclerosis. Occasionally, reduced milk production may occur after 6 weeks if there is reduced nipple stimulation secondary to sensory impairment. It is not known if β-interferon or copolymer-1 passes into breast milk, but it is advised that these are not used during breast-feeding. This consideration must be weighed against the desire to restart DMTs as early as possible in the postpartum period to minimise postpartum relapse risk.

    Short courses of methylprednisolone are not contraindicated during breast-feeding. Only small concentrations are excreted in breast milk, and it has a short half-life. Breast-feeding does not impact on the risk of relapse within the postpartum period.39


    Women with multiple sclerosis should be reassured that pregnancy does not appear to be harmful overall and may even be beneficial. The perceived adverse impact on disease activity of the recommendation to stop disease modifying therapy prior to pregnancy may potentially be offset by the immunosuppressive effect of pregnancy itself. Treatment beyond DMT to reduce the heightened risk of relapse postpartum is not currently recommended but may deserve further consideration. The outcome of pregnancy for the majority of patients with MS is not significantly different from that of the general population, though some precautions may be required in patients with advanced or spinal forms of MS. Further understanding of the mechanism behind reduced MS disease activity during pregnancy may have implications for treating autoimmune diseases in general.


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    M Lee1, P O’Brien2

    1 Department of Neurology, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, Norwich, UK
    2 Institute for Women’s Health, University College London Hospitals, London, UK

    JNNP Online  © 2008 by the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. (17/11/08)

    Preterm birth has no effect on the risk of Multiple Sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MS

    Abstract (provisional)

    Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. A clear parent of origin effect has been shown in several populations, perhaps resulting from factors operating during gestation. Preterm birth (birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) has been shown to result in long-term health problems including impaired neurological development. Here, in a population-based cohort, we investigate whether preterm birth increases the risk to subsequently develop MS.

    We identified 6585 MS index cases and 2509 spousal controls with preterm birth information from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS. Rates of individuals born preterm were compared for index cases and controls.

    There were no significant differences between cases and controls with respect to preterm births. 370 (5.6%) MS index cases and 130 (5.2%) spousal controls were born preterm, p=0.41.

    Preterm birth does not appear to contribute to MS aetiology. Other factors involved in foetal and early development need to be explored to elucidate the mechanism of the increased risk conferred by the apparent maternal effect.

    Source: BMC Neurology © 1999-2008 BioMed Central Ltd (12/08/08)

    Pregnancy, delivery, and birth outcome in different stages of maternal Multiple Sclerosis

    Pregnancy and MS

    To investigate the influence of maternal MS on pregnancy, this study compared pregnancy, delivery, and birth outcome in births prior to onset of MS (pre MS), between MS onset and diagnosis (early MS), and after diagnosis of MS (manifest MS).

    Mothers with MS were identified through linkage of the Norwegian MS Registry and the Medical Birth Registry of Norway (1967-2002).

    All pre MS births (n = 1910), early MS births (n = 555), and manifest MS births (n = 308) were compared. There was a significantly lower mean birth weight in term births (adjusted for gestation in weeks, mother’s age, time period, and caesarean section) in the manifest MS compared to the pre MS group.

    The rate of birth complications and interventions did not differ between the three groups. Manifest MS in birth-giving mothers seems to affect birth weight.

    This study was performed by the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Bergen, Norway and the article is published in the Journal of Neurology.

    Source: PubMed PMID: 18283397 (01/08/08) 

    Postpartum Functioning in Mothers With Multiple Sclerosis
    Increased family demands during the postpartum period together with having to cope with symptoms and curtailed everyday functioning associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) suggest the need for additional support for mothers with MS throughout the first postpartum year.

    This study investigated factors (MS duration, MS relapse, symptoms, social support) that affect functional performance of 172 mothers with MS during the second 6-month postpartum period.

    Data were analysed with descriptive statistics and path analysis.

    Findings indicated a good fit of the path models to the data at 9 and 12 months. Significant effects at both 9 and 12 months included positive relationships between duration of MS and symptoms and between social support and functional performance. Significant negative relationships were observed between symptoms and both social support and functional performance. Social support mediated the relationship between symptoms and functional performance.

    Findings suggest the importance of continuedsocial support throughout the first postpartum year.

    Source: Western Journal of Nursing Research, Vol. 29, No. 5, 589-602 (2007) © 2007 SAGE Publications (30/07/07)

    © Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre (MSRC)

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