Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects about 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million people worldwide.
Twice as many women as men are diagnosed. Women are often diagnosed in their childbearing years.
Most women with MS are no more likely to suffer from infertility as other women. But fertility can be affected in women treated with certain MS drugs.
“When MS and infertility coincide, patients seek assisted reproduction technology to achieve pregnancy,” says Jorge Correale, MD, of Argentina’s Raul Carrea Institute for Neurological Research.
In the new study, Correale and colleagues followed patients with relapsing-remitting MS who had a total of 26 cycles of infertility treatments.
The treatment included drugs that affect the release of hormones that prepare the body for a pregnancy.
Compared to MS patients in remission who did not have the infertility treatments, the women who did had a sevenfold increase in symptom flares and a ninefold increase in enhanced disease activity; this was seen on MRI scans over nine months of follow-up after the last cycle of infertility treatment.
Nearly 3 out of 4 flares (73%) involved new symptoms, and just over 1 in 4 (27%) were considered a worsening of existing symptoms.
The research appears in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Neurology.