Women who use oral contraceptive seem to be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS), but the effect is short-lived; in the long-term, former oral contraceptive users are probably just as likely to acquire the neurologic disorder as nonusers, new research shows.
Pregnancy seems to have a similar effect on the risk.
"From the public health point of view, our results do not support the use of oral contraceptives for the prevention of MS," Dr. Alvaro Alonso, from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told Reuters Health.
Still, "the findings may provide reassurance to women that it is safe to use oral contraceptives or become pregnant, as neither increases the risk of MS."
Three previous studies have failed to show an association between taking the pill and MS risk, Alonso noted. "
In the present study, which appears in the Archives of Neurology, the investigators compared oral contraceptive use by 106 people with MS in the three years before their symptoms began with use by 1001 matched but unaffected "controls."
Oral contraceptive use was tied to a 40 percent lower occurrence of MS. Pregnancy also cut the risk of MS, whereas the period right after childbirth was associated with a brief rise in risk, Guardian reports.
Alonso said that his team is planning a larger study to address whether certain types of oral contraceptives have any effect on the risk of certain types of MS.