Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre

Welcome to the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre. This website is intended for international healthcare professionals with an interest in Multiple Sclerosis. By clicking the link below you are declaring and confirming that you are a healthcare professional

You are here

Does pregnancy alter the long-term course of multiple sclerosis?

Igor Karp, Alexandra Manganas, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre, Annie Ho, Elaine Roger, Pierre Duquette

Annals of Epidemiology, Available online 24 April 2014


The purpose was to examine the impact of pregnancy on the rates of relapses, progression to irreversible disability, and transition to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

We retrospectively followed two subcohorts of women with RRMS: pregnant (n = 254) and nonpregnant (n = 423). We obtained data on demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics from patient records. Poisson and logistic regressions estimated the rate ratios associated with pregnancy as a function of time. Confounding was controlled by propensity-score adjustment, and postbaseline selection bias was controlled by inverse probability weighting.

In the pregnant and nonpregnant subcohorts, respectively, 300 and 787 relapses, 15 and 27 transitions to SPMS, and 11 and 34 progressions to irreversible disability were documented. Adjusted rate ratios (95% confidence intervals) shortly after baseline were 0.67 (0.49; 0.92) for relapses, 0.16 (0.03; 0.79) for irreversible disability, and 1.25 (0.39; 3.96) for SPMS. The corresponding estimates at 5 and 10 years were, respectively, 1.04 (0.72; 1.52), 0.82 (0.36; 1.88), and 2.33 (1.03; 5.26) and 1.62 (0.84; 3.14), 4.14 (0.89; 19.22), and 4.33 (1.10; 16.99).

Pregnancy likely ameliorates the short-term course of RRMS in terms of the rates of relapses and progression to irreversible disability. Over the long term, it appears to have no material impact on these outcomes, and might in fact accelerate the rate of transition to SPMS.

Search this site

Stay up-to-date with our monthly e-alert

If you want to regularly receive information on what is happening in MS research sign up to our e-alert.

Subscribe »

About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

Journal Editor's choice

Recommended by Prof. Brenda Banwell

Causes of death among persons with multiple sclerosis

Gary R. Cutter, Jeffrey Zimmerman, Amber R. Salter, et al.

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, September 2015, Vol 4 Issue 5