A new study came out recently, published in a March online issue of Neurology® – the medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology, which took an interesting look at a link between pregnancies and multiple sclerosis. The research team headed by Anne-Louise Ponsonby, PhD, of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia compared the number of children a woman has and her risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which the myelin sheaths around the spinal cord and brain start to break down and can cause a huge range of symptoms. Usual onset of the disease is in young adults and is more common in women and with no known cure at the moment, studies are being funded to try to find ways to reduce onset and risks of developing.
This recent study has looked at the connection of previous pregnancies and the age a woman is when she has her children and her risks for developing multiple sclerosis.
The study was conducted using 282 men and women in Australia between the ages of 18-59 years old who had a first diagnosis of central nervous demyelination. They had not yet been officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but they had symptoms and marks consistent with MS. They were then compared to 542 men and women who did not exhibit any symptoms of MS and the researchers recorded the number of pregnancies (lasting at least 20 weeks) for the women and the number of live births and the number of children born to men was also recorded.
The results of the study found that there was no connection between the amount of children and risk for developing symptoms for men,but the results were much different for women. Women who were pregnant 2 or more times had a quarter of the risk of developing MS symptoms and women who had five or more pregnancies had one-twentieth the risk of developing symptoms than women who had never been pregnant. The researchers concluded that:
the findings are consistent with a cumulative beneficial effect of pregnancy. Temporal changes toward an older maternal age of parturition and reduced offspring number may partly underlie the increasing female excess among MS cases over time.
The lead researcher, Ponsonby said that “the rate of MS cases has been increasing in women over the last few decades, and our research suggests that this may be due to mothers having children later in life and having fewer children than they have in past years.”
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