Breastfeeding for at least 15 months may make mothers less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS)

The comparison was made with those who don’t breastfeed at all or do so for up to four months.

“This is another example of a benefit to the mother from breastfeeding,” said study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, with Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Other health benefits include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type-2 diabetes and heart attack.”

Women with MS have significantly fewer relapses, or attacks, during pregnancy or while they are breastfeeding exclusively, meaning that the child receives only breast milk.

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“Many experts have suggested that the levels of sex hormones are responsible for these findings, but we hypothesized that the lack of ovulation may play a role, so we wanted to see if having a longer time of breastfeeding or fewer total years when a woman is ovulating could be associated with the risk of MS,” Langer-Gould said.

53% less likely to develop MS

The study involved 397 women with an average age of 37 who were newly diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome. They were compared to 433 women matched for race and age. The women were given in-person questionnaires about pregnancies, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use and other factors.

Women who had breastfed for a cumulative amount with one or more children for 15 months or more were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or clinically isolated syndrome than women who had a total of zero to four months of breastfeeding.

Women who were 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were 44 percent less likely to develop MS.

Langer-Gould noted that the study does not prove that breastfeeding is responsible for the reduced risk of MS; it only shows the association.

“This study provides more evidence that women who are able to breastfeed their infants should be supported in doing so,” Langer-Gould said. “Among the many other benefits to the mother and the baby, breastfeeding may reduce the mother’s future risk of developing MS.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology (AAN) via www.sciencedaily.com

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