My husband and I plan on having children at some point in the future. Also, I find it interesting that pregnancy suppresses the immune system and doctors are researching ways to utilize that information to find a cure. So I decided to read the "Baby Time?" article in last month's "Momentum" magazine (from the National MS Society). The following are excerpts from the article (the parts that I found most interesting).
First, a bit more about the immune-suppressing effect of pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones are such a potent suppressor of MS symptoms that Rhonda Voskuhl, MD, director of UCLA’s Multiple Sclerosis Program, has been investigating whether they might work as a treatment for the disease. So far, the results have been promising. When Dr. Voskuhl’s team gave estriol—a hormone produced by the placenta—to women with MS, the size and number of inflammatory lesions in their brains dropped by 80%. Clinical studies of estriol are continuing.
Next, the after-effects of pregnancy on someone with MS.
After nine months of pregnancy, you might think the hard part is over. But about 40% of women find that the symptom reprieve they enjoyed during pregnancy comes to an abrupt halt after their baby is born. They have
what’s known as a “catch-up” relapse. Their MS comes back with a vengeance.
“Postpartum, the immune system seems to recover and become even more active than it is normally, and this appears to increase the risk of MS attacks,” said Stephen Hauser, MD, neurologist, immunologist, and chair of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. Although doctors don’t know exactly why women face a higher risk for relapse in the postpartum period, they suspect that hormones released during this time,
such as prolactin (which stimulates milk production), reactivate the immune response.
Relapses are most common in the first three months after the baby’s birth. Research finds that women are more likely to relapse during the postpartum period if they experienced relapses the year before they got pregnant and during their pregnancy. Ordinary MS symptoms can add more strain to the demands of new motherhood.
Next, information regarding making a decision about breastfeeding.
Experts say, hands down, breast milk is the best food during the first year of a baby’s life, but the decision to breastfeed is complicated. Breastfeeding can be tiring. It is hard to hand off the 3 a.m. feeding to get a little extra sleep. Producing the milk takes energy, too. These are big considerations for a new mother with MS. More importantly, just as in pregnancy, doctors usually recommend staying off disease-modifying drugs while you breastfeed. (You can take steroids while nursing, however.)
If you decide to stay off your meds and breastfeed, there is some evidence that nursing might protect you. “The protection afforded through breastfeeding can be as beneficial, or more so, than the immune-suppressant drugs,” said Elsie E. Gulick, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor emeritus at the Rutgers University College of Nursing, Newark, N.J. When she studied new mothers with MS, Dr. Gulick discovered that women who did not breastfeed were three times more likely to have relapses than mothers who breastfed during the first three
months of their baby’s life. In other research, 87% of women who didn’t breastfeed had a relapse in the first two months after delivery, compared with only 36% of women who breastfed exclusively.
These were just a few things that the article discussed, a lot to think about! To read the full article, click here.
On another note, interesting information regarding the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency & MS:
"Higher levels of sun exposure and higher blood levels of vitamin D were both associated with decreased risk of having a first demyelinating event that can be the first indicator of multiple sclerosis, in a comprehensive study undertaken in Australia, called the Ausimmune Study. (A first demyelinating event, in this study called FDE, is also known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), a first neurologic episode caused by inflammation/demyelination in the brain or spinal cord.)"
"The findings provide additional support for previous suggestions that sun exposure and vitamin D may help protect against developing MS. It remains to be seen whether safe and effective strategies can be developed that utilize this potential protection without the risks involved in overexposure to the sun or overdoses of vitamin D supplements, and whether these findings have relevance for individuals who already have MS."
To read the full article, click here.
Time to go take my shot - bye for now!