By Luke Andrews For Mailonline
Published: 16:00 BST, 14 September 2020 | Updated: 16:03 BST, 14 September 2020
Pregnancy may delay the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) by more than three years, scientists have found.
A study of 3,600 women found women who were pregnant developed the condition on average 3.3 years later than their counterparts.
It also revealed women who carried their babies to full term experienced a longer delay in the development of the disease (3.4 years).
The breakthrough paves the way for research into new treatments to delay the onset of the crippling disease, such as giving patients a hormone that the body produces during pregnancy.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition which has symptoms including loss of mobility, sight problems, tiredness and excruciating pain.
It is caused when the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking the body, and is three times more likely in women than in men. As many as 100,000 people in the UK, and 400,000 in the US, are affected by the condition.
Women who were pregnant developed the condition on average 3.3 years later than their counterparts who were not, a study led by Australia-based Monash University has found (stock image)
The study, published today in the journal JAMA Neurology and led by Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, used a database of more than 70,000 MS sufferers from 35 countries to make the find.
Dr Vilija Jokubaitis, who led the study, said the delay may have been caused by changes in women's DNA during pregnancy.
'At present, we don't know exactly how pregnancy slows the development of MS, but we believe that it has to do with alterations made to a woman's DNA,' she said.
The change may 'switch off' genes causing the over-activity in the immune system that leads to the condition.
It has been suggested that