World's first major study shows delayed MS onset due to pregnancy

A comprehensive international study, led by Monash University researchers, has definitively found that pregnancy can delay the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) by more than 3 years.

MS is four times more prevalent in women and the finding – which used a global database of more than 70,000 MS patients, run by Monash University - has implications to both a greater understanding of the causes of MS as well as the potential for the use of hormone therapy to delay the onset of symptoms.

It is estimated that over 2.5 million people worldwide have MS with women four times more likely to have the disease than men.

The study into MS and pregnancy, led by Dr Vilija Jokubaitis, from the Monash University Department of Neuroscience,  published the study in today’s issue of Journal of the American Medicine Association Neurology journal (JAMA Neurology) looked at whether pregnancy can delay the onset of MS, which is very frequently diagnosed in women of childbearing years.

The study is the latest in dozens of high impact research studies into MS conducted using the MSBase database of more than 70,000 people with MS in 35 countries. The global initiative, which has been operating for over 20 years is led by Professor Helmut Butzkueven, Monash University’s Department of Neuroscience.

Dr Jokubaitis studied more than 3600 women attending four MS clinics in two countries (Czech Republic, and Australia), all of whom were enrolled in MSBase.

The study found that women who have been pregnant were diagnosed with their first MS symptoms, on average, 3.3 years later, compared to women who had never been pregnant.  A similar delay in MS onset was also observed in women who had carried a baby to term – with onset delayed, on average, by 3.4 years.

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