Background: The uncertainty about long-term effects of childbirth faces MS patients with dilemmas.
Methods: Based on clinical data of 330 female MS patients, the long-term effects of childbirth were analysed, using a cross-sectional study design. Four groups of patients were distinguished: (1) without children (n= 80), (2) with children born before MS onset (n= 170), (3) with children born after MS onset (n= 61) and (4) with children born before and after MS onset (n= 19). Time to event analysis and Cox proportional hazard regression were performed with time from onset to EDSS 6 and age at EDSS 6 as outcome measure.
Results: After a mean disease duration of 18 years, 55 % had reached EDSS 6. Survival curves show a distinct shift in the time to EDSS 6 between patients with no children after MS onset and patients with children after MS onset in favour of the latter. Cox regression analysis correcting for age at onset shows that patients with children only after MS onset had a reduced risk compared to patients without children (HR 0.61; 95%CI 0.37 - 0.99, p=0.049). Also patients who gave birth at any point in time had a reduced risk compared to patients without children (HR 0.66; 95%CI 0.47 - 0.95, p=0.023). A similar pattern was seen for age at EDSS 6 (HR 0.57, p=0.027 and HR 0.68, p=0.038 respectively)
Conclusion: Although a bias cannot fully be excluded, these results seem to support a possible favourable long-term effect of childbirth on the course of MS.