Moms who breastfeed may have reduced risk of multiple sclerosis

Breastfeeding
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Mothers who breastfeed for a total of at least 15 months over one or more pregnancies may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with those who don't breastfeed at all or do so for up to four months, according to a study published in the July 12, 2017, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"This is another example of a benefit to the mother from ," said study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, with Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Other health benefits include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and ."

Women with MS have significantly fewer relapses, or attacks, during pregnancy or while they are breastfeeding exclusively, meaning that the child receives only breast milk.

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

The study involved 397 women with an average age of 37 who were newly diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome. They were compared to 433 women matched for race and age. The women were given in-person questionnaires about pregnancies, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use and other factors.

Women who had breastfed for a cumulative amount with one or more children for 15 or more were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or clinically isolated syndrome than women who had a total of zero to four months of breastfeeding. A total of 85 of the healthy women had breastfed for 15 months or more, compared to 44 of the women with MS. For the healthy women, 110 breastfed for zero to four months, compared to 118 of the women with MS.

Women who were age 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were 44 percent less likely to develop MS later than women who were 11 years old or younger at the time of their first menstruation. A total of 44 of the healthy women were 15 or older at first menstruation, compared to 27 of the women with MS. Additionally, 120 of the healthy women were 11 years old or younger at first menstruation, compared to 131 of the women with MS.

The total number of years a woman ovulated was not associated with risk of MS. Neither were other factors that would be part of that number, such as number of pregnancies, use of hormonal contraceptives and age at first birth.

Langer-Gould noted that the study does not prove that breastfeeding is responsible for the of MS; it only shows the association.

Limitations of the study include that the women were asked to remember information from years earlier, so they may not have remembered everything correctly, and that the reasons for not breastfeeding or breastfeeding only for a short period of time were not investigated.

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


Explore further

Breastfeeding may reduce a mother's heart attack and stroke risk

Journal information: Neurology

Citation: Moms who breastfeed may have reduced risk of multiple sclerosis (2017, July 12) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-07-moms-breastfeed-multiple-sclerosis.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
17 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 12, 2017
Jesus Christ. I can't stand studies like this. 1. Early menstruation is a sign of nutritional deficiency, meaning they are more likely to be poorer. 2. Those that are poor tend to work more full time jobs, meaning that they have to work and can't take time off to raise a baby like a well off family, and thus decide to go to formula instead of breast feed. Being poor brings all sorts of health risks and vulnerabilities.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more