Recently JAMA Neurology came out with the results of a study that suggests new mothers with multiple sclerosis should be encouraged to breastfeed their newborns for at least 2 months after birth because it increases their chances to experience a 6 month pain-free reprieve from MS. It is a well-known fact that MS is not a major factor that would cause a woman to decide against pregnancy. Pregnancy for women with MS is normal and the only possible downside would be muscle weakness on the last month but will only require a closer watch by your doctor.

After giving birth, the high levels of corticosteroids that were produced during the pregnancy period remains high and acts as a natural immunosuppressant. If a woman with MS decides not to breastfeed her baby, she can expect this natural benefit to decrease slowly and within three months start to experience relapses. In short, her hormones return to the pre-pregnancy levels.

This new research that was conducted over a period of 4 years with 201 participants proves that it is possible to prevent relapses in the first six months after giving birth with exclusive breastfeeding. Dr. Kerstin Hellwig from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany said that only 24.2% of the women who breastfed their babies experienced relapses. He says, “I think these are very helpful and optimistic findings, as they clearly show that breastfeeding is not harmful” and should be encouraged. Women should be told about this and be given the chance to make an intelligent decision not just to benefit herself but also benefit the health of her baby.

It should be noted that any woman with MS planning to breastfeed her baby should avoid taking immunomodulating drugs during the 9-month term. There are certain drugs that are considered safe for the mother and fetus, and there are those that can cause side effects or not have enough research on the effects on the unborn child. It is critical for the mother-to-be to consult with all doctors: the MS doctor, the oby-gyn, and the pediatrician.

Any worries about passing on MS to your unborn child or nursing child is natural but clinical studies show a 5% chance of a child having MS because of the condition of the mother or from breastfeeding.

Surely, this is fantastic news considering that 60 years ago, women with MS were discouraged from getting pregnant for fear that the disease would worsen or pass on genetically.

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