Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Breastfeeding May Not Cut Risk of MS Relapse

Study Shows Breastfeeding Has No Role in Reducing Risk of Flare-Ups of Multiple Sclerosis
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 6, 2011 -- Breastfeeding offers no protection against relapses of multiple sclerosis (MS), a study shows.

Women with MS are known to have higher relapse rates in the year following childbirth, and several studies have offered conflicting evidence about the role of breastfeeding in reducing the risk of such flare-ups. The new study, conducted at MS centers throughout Italy, shows that breastfeeding does not reduce the risk.

"It's a well-designed study that does a nice job of resolving the controversy," says neurologist Dennis Bourdette, MD, director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "It resolves from my standpoint that breastfeeding is not protective."

The study is published in the online edition of Neurology.

Between 2002 and 2008, the researchers, led by Emilio Portaccio, MD, of the University of Florence, followed 298 women during their pregnancies and for the first year after giving birth. Of those, 104 women breastfed for at least two months. The rest of the women breastfed for less than two months or not at all.

The researchers report that 112 women had one relapse in the first postpartum year, while 20 women had two or more relapses. Such relapses led 39 of the women to stop breastfeeding altogether.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that breastfeeding did not determine the risk of relapse. Instead, the most reliable predictor of a flare-up following childbirth was the number of flare-ups both before and during pregnancy. In other words, the more active a woman's disease during those periods, the more likely she was to have relapse in the months after delivery.

MS and Pregnancy

An estimated 2.5 million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis. An autoimmune disease, MS impairs the nervous system by damaging the myelin sheath, a protective substance that surrounds nerve fibers.

Much more common among women than men, MS has no known cause or cure. However, drugs and other therapies can help manage the disease course and control its symptoms, which include vision problems, fatigue, weakness, tremors, and trouble with coordination.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
brain scan
worried woman
neural fiber
white blood cells
sunlight in hands
marijuana plant
muscle spasm