image shows a pregnant lady holding her bump

New research into why pregnancy protects women against the effects of MS

We’re proud to be funding Professor Lars Fugger's study into why women often have fewer MS symptoms when pregnant.

What happens in MS during pregnancy?

We know that many women with MS experience fewer relapses during pregnancy, even though they often reduce or stop their medication. They may, however, experience more severe symptoms after birth.

This suggests that women’s bodies are able to suppress MS to some extent during pregnancy. We don’t yet know exactly why this happens, but it’s thought to be due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. In MS, the immune system goes wrong and attacks the protective coating around our nerves. But during pregnancy, it is thought that changes in our hormones affect how the immune system works.

If we can understand how this happens, it could lead to more targeted, better treatments for people living with MS.

Looking for changes

Lars and his team at the University of Oxford will use blood samples collected from women before, during and after pregnancy. The genes expressed in the immune cells found in these blood samples will be analysed, with the aim of identifying the pathways involved in improving and worsening MS symptoms.

Although this research is in its early stages, it is hoped that these findings will allow us to design more effective treatments for everyone with MS in the future.

Committed to finding new treatments for MS

Professor Fugger said: “Over 100,000 in the UK live with this condition, with more women than men affected. Many women find they experience fewer relapses during pregnancy, even when they stop medication. Finding out how women’s bodies are able to suppress MS symptoms when pregnant will give us a vital insight into this unpredictable condition, and could ultimately help everyone affected.”

The investment is part of our continued commitment to support new and exciting research that meet our goals. Right now we’re funding projects worth over £20 million ranging from finding new treatments for progressive MS to improving the way care and services are provided.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at the MS Society, said: “We’re driving research into more and better treatments all the time, and are proud to be investing almost £250,000 into this exciting new project in Oxford. “Led by dedicated MS researchers, it has the potential to have a huge impact on the field of MS research. And we believe it can ultimately help us stop MS.”