Many women with MS take oral hormonal contraceptive drugs. However, it remains unclear whether these drugs may influence MS relapses.

In this study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts, USA, researchers recruited 162 women with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) who started taking injectable disease modifying drugs (interferon or glatiramer acetate) within two years of when their symptoms started. They divided these women into three groups:

  1. Those who had never received oral hormonal contraceptive drugs
  2. Those who received oral hormonal contraceptive drugs in the past
  3. Those who were currently taking oral hormonal contraceptive drugs

While prior oral hormonal contraceptive drugs users had significantly lower relapse rates than never-users, the number of relapses per year between these three groups was not significantly different.

These results offer reassurance for women who are newly diagnosed with MS that use of oral hormonal contraceptive drugs, past or current, does not appear to be associated with greater risk of relapses.

The authors emphasise that their study was observational, and therefore future interventional studies are needed to confirm their findings.

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