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 weaknes
All rights reserved