And just in the past year a study said the opposite. At least it doesn't make things worse. - Dave

Breast feeding does not stop MS relapses

[Posted: Fri 08/07/2011 by Deborah Condon]

Breastfeeding does not appear to protect against relapses of multiple sclerosis (MS), despite previous research suggesting there may be a protective role, the results of a new study indicate.

MS affects the brain and the spinal cord. Around 6,000 people in Ireland have the disease and it is currently the most common neurological disease affecting young Irish adults. There is no cure and the condition is characterised by a slowly progressing disablement.

Previous research had indicated that breastfeeding may help protect against relapses of the condition, so Italian researchers decided to investigate this further.

They looked at 298 pregnant women with MS who gave birth at full-term. The women were monitored for one year after delivery. Just over one-third of the women breastfed for at least two months, while the rest breastfed for less than two months or not at all and were considered not breastfeeding.

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

The study found that 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 the researchers from the University of Florence, 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% more likely to have a relapse after giving birth than those who did not have relapses in the year before pregnancy. Meanwhile, women who had relapses during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a relapse in the postpartum period as those who did not have relapses during pregnancy.

"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. 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," explained lead researcher, Dr Emilio Portaccio.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Neurology.