HealthDay News — Maternal and perinatal factors that influence the risk of pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) include cesarean delivery and maternal health during pregnancy, according to a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Jennifer S. Graves, MD, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a case-control study involving children with MS or clinically isolated syndrome and healthy controls enrolled at 16 clinics. A comprehensive environmental questionnaire was completed by parents, which included capture of pregnancy and perinatal factors. Responses were available for 265 eligible cases and 412 healthy controls. 

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In the primary multivariable analysis, the researchers found that maternal illness during pregnancy correlated with 2.3-fold increased odds of having MS, and cesarean delivery correlated with a 60% reduction in the odds of MS. After adjustment for these factors, there was no correlation for maternal age, body mass index, tobacco smoke exposure, and breastfeeding with MS. In the secondary analysis, having a father who worked in a gardening-related occupation or any use in the household of pesticide-related products correlated with increased odds of having pediatric MS (odds ratios, 2.18 and 1.73, respectively), after adjustment for age, sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

“Cesarean delivery and maternal health during pregnancy may influence risk for pediatric-onset MS,” the authors write. “We report a new possible association of pesticide-related environmental exposures with pediatric MS that warrants further investigation and replication.”

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