Wow, this is a remarkable finding…  It turns out that pregnant women who are suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), and who elect to undergo an abortion, have significantly increased risk for relapse and the development of new lesions in their brains.  This finding is described in an Italian study of female MS sufferers, published on 3 July 2018 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry

Image of a 9 week old human embryo
A 9 week old human embryo

The authors found that in women who had abortions, whether spontaneous or elective, the relapse rate was higher in the year after the pregnancy.  Additionally, they found that post-abortion, the number of gadolinium enhancing lesions on MRI brain scans was increased, compared to the pre-conception year.

What is remarkable is that there was a specific effect for elective abortions as compared to spontaneous abortions.  Compared to MS sufferers who had spontaneous abortions, MS sufferers who elected to induce abortion had a significantly higher rate of relapse and had more lesions in their brains at follow-up.  Exactly why elective abortion that is so detrimental to MS sufferers is uncertain.

Image showing Dawson's Finger, a characteristic MRI finding in MS
MRI brain scan showing Dawson’s Fingers, a characteristic finding in MS

While the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis remains inadequately defined, there is no doubt that inflammation plays a major role in the condition and at the very least serves to perpetuate signs and symptoms of the disease.  One wonders if elective abortions are not more psychologically damaging than spontaneous abortions.  Certainly, we know that inflammation can cause depression and there is now evidence that depression can trigger an inflammatory response.  This study hints at the possibility that emotional distress associated with elective abortion triggers an inflammatory response, which in turn aggravates the autoimmune inflammatory response associated with MS.

This study was the first to examine abortion in MS.  Interestingly, previous research into pregnancy and MS has identified positive and negative effects of pregnancy.  Pregnant MS sufferers manifest an intriguing reduction in relapses in the third trimester, followed by an increase in relapse rate in the first three months after giving birth.  This finding has been replicated, adding weight to the association.


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