Pregnancy: Effect on Multiple Sclerosis, Treatment Considerations, and Breastfeeding

Neurotherapeutics. 2017 Oct;14(4):974-984. doi: 10.1007/s13311-017-0562-7.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) commonly affects women in childbearing years making pregnancy issues important for patients with MS and their families. Pregnancy is a naturally occurring disease modifier of MS associated with a 70% reduction in relapse rates in the third trimester. This relapse rate reduction during the last trimester is roughly equal to the most effective disease-modifying treatments for MS. Given this efficacy, various pregnancy factors have been tested to determine which play a part in pregnancy's protection, and some have been translated to completed and ongoing phase II clinical trials. In contrast to protective effects during pregnancy, the postpartum period entails increased relapse risk, which may be due to either abrupt removal of protective pregnancy factors after delivery or to unique deleterious factors inherent to the postpartum period. The effect of breastfeeding on MS remains unclear. The best predictor for whether a patient will have a postpartum relapse is the incidence of her having active relapsing MS prior to pregnancy. The medical management of MS during pregnancy and the postpartum period is challenging given the risks of medication exposure to the fetus in utero and to the infant through breast milk. This review will focus on clinical aspects of pregnancy, including the effects of pregnancy on MS disease activity, as well as the medical management of MS during pregnancy and postpartum.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Disease-modifying therapies; Estriol; Estrogen; Multiple sclerosis; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Recurrence