New research has found that mothers who breastfeed for 15 months or more have a 53% lower risk of developing MS.
The study compared 397 women, who had recently been diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), which can turn into MS, and 433 women who did not have MS.
MS is more common in women than men and often at childbearing age, the team of researchers set out to discover whether there is a link between MS and motherhood.
All of the women were assessed using questionnaires on topics such as pregnancy period, breastfeeding practices and use of contraceptives.
The research revealed that women who had breastfed over a cumulative period of 15 months or longer, either following one pregnancy or across several pregnancies, had the lowest risk of developing MS. They were at a 53% lower risk of developing MS or CIS than women who had not breastfed, or who had breastfed for four months or under. The study’s Author, Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, did however note that the study does not prove that breastfeeding is responsible for the reduced risk of MS; it only shows the association.
Eighty-five healthy females and 44 with MS or CIS said they had breastfeed for 15 months or longer. Out of the women with MS, 118 had not breastfeed at all, or had breastfed for up to four months. Whereas, 110 healthy women said they had breastfed between the ages of 0-4 months.
Women who were age 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were 44% less likely to develop MS later than women who were 11 years old or younger at the time of their first menstruation. A total of 44 of the healthy women were 15 or older at first menstruation, compared to 27 of the women with MS. Additionally, 120 of the healthy women were 11 years old or younger at first menstruation, compared to 131 of the women with MS.
The total number of years a woman ovulated was not associated with risk of MS. Neither were other factors that would be part of that number, such as number of pregnancies, use of hormonal contraceptives and age at first birth.
Limitations of the study include that the women were asked to remember information from years earlier, so they may not have remembered everything correctly, and that the reasons for not breastfeeding or breastfeeding only for a short period of time were not investigated.
Source: MS-UK (14/07/17)