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Childbirth May Slow Progression of Multiple Sclerosis
Date:11/24/2009

Patients who had at least one child were less likely to become disabled, study finds

TUESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Having children may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis, new research suggests.

Belgian researchers followed 330 women who had experienced their first MS symptoms between the ages of 22 and 38.

Women who had given birth to at least one child were 34 percent less likely to have the disease progress to a stage in which they needed walking assistance, such as a cane or brace, than women without children.

While having a baby either before or after the onset of MS symptoms seemed to help, women who had a child after they began experiencing MS symptoms were even better off. During the study, women with MS symptoms who'd had a baby were 39 percent less likely to have their disease progress to the point of needing walking assistance. In the study, women had the disease for an average of 18 years.

"Women with MS who have children seem to have a more benign MS course than those who don't," said study author Marie D'hooghe, of the department of neurology at Nationaal MS Centrum in Melsbroek, Belgium.

The research appears in the Nov. 24 online issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defense system attacks myelin, or the protective fatty substance that surrounds nerve fibers in the central nervous system, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The damage causes a disruption to nerve signals traveling to and from the brain, which causes the numbness, walking problems, blurry vision and fatigue.

About 85 percent of those with MS start with a relapsing-remitting course, in which attacks are followed by partial or total recovery, according to the study. More than half go on to develop a more progressive form of the disease, in which symptoms worsen o
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