MS and Pregnancy: Is It Safe?
Everyday Challenges of MS
If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you face everyday challenges. Depending on which nerve signals your MS has disrupted, you may experience numbness, stiffness, muscle spasms, dizziness, emotional changes, and difficulty focusing and organizing.
But what about the not-so-obvious ways in which MS may affect your life? For example, can or should you have a baby?
Click through the slideshow to learn more about MS and pregnancy.
MS and Pregnancy: Is It Safe?
“Will I be able to get pregnant? Might pregnancy worsen my MS? What if I can’t organize nutritious meal plans for the baby? How will I chase a toddler around the house?” If you’re considering parenthood, these are all practical questions you may be asking yourself. Recent research can answer some of them.
Generally, yes: it is safe to become pregnant if you have MS. In fact, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says that MS is more prevalent in women of childbearing age than in any other group. Medical management and a supportive team will be key to a successful pregnancy.
Deciding to Have a Baby
Couples living with MS need to plan for ongoing support when considering pregnancy. This planning begins with finding a neurologist and an obstetrician who believe you can start your family.
Managing MS and being pregnant are challenging enough individually, let alone together. You should choose doctors who will help you sort through your concerns, guide you to appropriate support and resources, and encourage you through any challenges.
After Your Team Is in Place
Once you have a supportive medical team, discuss specific concerns with them, for example:
- How will pregnancy affect my fatigue levels?
- Can I take MS medicines while pregnant and breastfeeding?
- What if my MS relapses?
- Will anesthesia during delivery adversely affect me?
- What are the chances of passing MS on to my child?
You may wish to download the brochure “Pregnancy, Delivery, and the Post-Partum Period” from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to share with your doctors.
How Might MS Affect Pregnancy, and Vice Versa?
Studies show that generally, fertility, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and fetal complications are no different for women with MS than for women without MS. Furthermore, research shows that MS flare-ups tend to decrease—especially in the latter two-thirds of a pregnancy.
However, bladder, bowel, fatigue, and gait issues—common among all pregnant women—may be worse for women with MS who already experience those issues.
The Medication Complication
Medical strategies for MS treat acute attacks, lessen symptoms, and slow the progress of the disease itself. Medications for the first two purposes are usually safe to continue during pregnancy. However, your doctor can recommend other management strategies if yours aren’t. If you take a disease-modifying agent, your doctor will advise you when to stop taking it—usually before you try to conceive.
After Your Baby Is Born
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, you may have a 20 to 40 percent greater risk for flare-ups in the first three to six months after delivery. These relapses in MS symptoms should not affect your abilities in the long term. However, anticipate fatigue in the short term.
Plan to focus on mothering, resting, and taking care of your health for the first six-to-nine months after delivery. This might include nutrition, exercise, social support, and physical or occupational therapy. Arrange for other people to do household tasks and even babysitting, if need be.
Support and Resources
Because MS is unpredictable, you may feel life’s uncertainty acutely. But when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, everyone walks into unknown territory. You can find emotional and practical help within your support networks of medical professionals, family, and friends.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation are also great resources. You may also enjoy the reassurance of the video, “Kara’s Story.”
- "MSAA: About MS - frequently asked questions about multiple sclerosis." MSAA: The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. MSAA, n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. http://mymsaa.org/about-ms/faq/#Pregnant.
- "Multiple sclerosis: Treatments and drugs ." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/DS00188/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.
- "Pregnancy for women with multiple sclerosis." Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. http://www.msfocus.org/article-details.aspx?articleID=29.
- "Pregnancy and reproductive issues." National MS Society. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/healthy-living/pregnancy/index.aspx.
- "Video: MS & pregnancy: Kara’s story: National MS Society." National MS Society . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/multimedia-library/videos--dvds/ms--pregnancy/index.aspx.