Pregnancy could delay the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) by more than 3 years, according to a comprehensive international study led by Monash University researchers, published in JAMA Neurology.

The study into MS and pregnancy, led by Dr Vilija Jokubaitis, from the Monash University Department of Neuroscience, looked at whether pregnancy can delay the onset of MS, which tends to be diagnosed in women of childbearing years.

MS is reportedly four times more prevalent in women, and the finding – which used a global database of more than 70,000 MS patients, run by Monash University – has implications to both a greater understanding of the causes of MS as well as the potential for the use of hormone therapy to delay the onset of symptoms, a media release from Monash University explains.

MSBase Database Used in Study

The study is the latest one into MS conducted using the MSBase database of more than 70,000 people with MS in 35 countries. The global initiative, which has been operating for over 20 years is led by Professor Helmut Butzkueven, Monash University’s Department of Neuroscience.

Jokubaitis studied more than 3600 women attending four MS clinics in two countries (Czech Republic, and Australia), all of whom were enrolled in MSBase.

Women who have been pregnant were diagnosed with their first MS symptoms, on average, 3.3 years later, compared to women who had never been pregnant. A similar delay in MS onset was also observed in women who had carried a baby to term – with onset delayed, on average, by 3.4 years.

Slows MS Development?

Jokubaitis suggests that pregnancy could reduce the abnormal overactivity of the immune system that causes MS, potentially long-term.

“At present, we don’t know exactly how pregnancy slows the development of MS, but we believe that it has to do with alterations made to a woman’s DNA. We are now seeking funding opportunities to explore this exciting possibility.”

[Source(s): Monash University, EurekAlert]

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