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Breast-Feeding May Not Protect Moms Against MS Relapse
Date:7/6/2011

une disease activity also declines while women are carrying children. During that time, an immune system "switch" changes from a "pro-inflammatory status to an anti-inflammatory status that promptly reverts after delivery." Symptoms then increase to an "even higher" level for a few months. Pregnancy is not believed to cause any long-term worsening of the disorder, however.

Several drugs are used to fight MS, which attacks myelin, the protective covering of nerve cells, causing inflammation. They are not considered safe for use during pregnancy, however.

For their study, the researchers looked at 298 women with full-term pregnancies from 2002 to 2008 at 21 MS treatment centers throughout Italy. Of those, about 34 percent breast-fed their babies for at least two months. The remaining mothers, who breast-fed for zero to two months, were labeled the non-breast-feeding group.

Follow-up lasted for a year. After adjusting for factors such as age and level of disability, the researchers found no significant difference in relapse rates between the breast-feeding and non-breast-feeding groups.

The only predictor of postpartum disease activity was the number of relapses before and during pregnancy, the researchers found.

The study, published online July 6 in Neurology, was conducted on behalf of the MS Study Group of the Italian Neurological Society.

The findings are "in line with what one might expect," said Dr. Fred Lublin, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Healthier women tended to breast-feed."

The study "did not resolve the issue of breast-feeding," added Lublin, who is also director of the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai. "These studies are all observational and it's hard to draw a conclusion of cause and effect from an observational study." A controlled study is needed, he said.

One expert expressed concern about the study's methodology.
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