(HealthDay News) — Women with a longer history of breastfeeding may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) than mothers who never breastfed or nurse for briefer periods, according to a study published online July 12 in Neurology.
Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., a research scientist in neurology at Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues analyzed 397 women (average age 37) who were newly diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). This group was compared to 433 healthy women matched for age and race, all of whom completed questionnaires focusing on their pregnancies, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use, and related factors.
Eighty-five of the healthy women had breastfed for 15 months or more, compared to 44 of those with MS. Among the healthy women, 110 had breast-fed for zero to four months, compared to 118 of those with MS. The team found that mothers who had breastfed one or more children for a total of 15 months or longer were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or CIS than those with zero to four months of total breastfeeding.
“Mothers who breastfeed longer may be at lower subsequent risk of developing multiple sclerosis,” the authors write. “This is consistent with the other known maternal health benefits of breastfeeding and with our previous observation that women with MS who breastfeed exclusively are at lower risk of postpartum relapses.”