Pregnancy and breastfeeding were once thought to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. However, that may not be the case after all, according to research presented at the XXIV World Congress of Neurology, held recently in Dubai, UAE.

How data is analyzed can lead to a misunderstanding of whether pregnancy can impact the long-term prognosis of MS—a shift from earlier studies about the interaction between pregnancy and MS—professor Mar Tintore, MD, PhD, the clinical chief of neurology in the Neurology-Neuroimmunology Department at the Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia at the Hospital Vall d’Hebron, suggests in the study.

“Comparing women who had any pregnancy during their disease with women who had not experienced pregnancy during their disease, what you see is that women with pregnancy are better off than those who had never been pregnant,” Tintore says, in a media release from World Federation of Neurology.

“This is not exactly the case when you consider other factors, which makes it likely that pregnancy doesn’t change the trajectory of the disease.”

Pregnancy may not modify long-term prognosis, but research shows that there is an impact on short-term prognosis. Other factors play an important role in MS such as a patient’s age, gender, baseline lesions, and if they are on treatment and for how long.

“To advertise that pregnancy has a very important impact and will positively modify your long-term prognosis is something we must be cautious about because studies show it is not true,” Tintore adds. “It could cause patients to think pregnancy can replace treatment and may cause confusion for providers who think pregnancy would treat the disease.”

Reflecting this data, the previously held idea that women with MS should not become pregnant has changed to involve an increased amount of family planning. Bridge therapies are an important step in preparing for pregnancy while living with MS, the release continues.

“If a woman stops treatment and tries to get pregnant, the disease can make a rebound and become very active,” Tintore comments. “Women with MS should plan and organize their pregnancy with their doctor to approach the chapter of life thoughtfully and with the mother’s health top-of-mind.”

[Source(s): World Federation of Neurology, PR Newswire]