As most of those newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) are young women of child bearing age, there is a lot of concern over how the disease affects pregnancy. In the past, the medical community was under the misconception that pregnancy made MS worse. Fortunately, this was later proven to be false. However, there are a few considerations for women with MS who hope to become pregnant.
Here is what you need to know about MS and having a baby:
- Research does not show that MS affects a woman’s fertility, nor does it increase the chances of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths or congenital malformations.
- Studies have shown that, in women who are diagnosed with MS prior to pregnancy, symptoms typically subside during pregnancy – possibly because pregnancy increases levels of natural corticosteroids, circulating proteins, and other natural immunosuppressants.
- Women with unrecognized MS prior to pregnancy may begin to experience symptoms during pregnancy.
- MS can make carrying a baby more difficult. Muscle weakness, fatigue, and problems with coordination increase the chances of a fall.
- Labor and delivery are also more difficult because the muscle weakness and nerve problems can prevent a woman from feeling labor pains and being able to deliver naturally. As a result, Cesarean section surgery, forceps, and vacuum-assisted deliveries may be more likely.
- Research has shown that MS symptoms are often exacerbated post-pregnancy for a period of three to six months, with a relapse risk of 20 to 40 percent. However, post-partum relapse has not been shown to increase a woman’s long-term disability.
To learn more about questions to ask and what to expect at a doctor appointment for MS, read the Vitals Multiple Sclerosis Patient Guide.
Sources: nationalmssociety.org and hopkinsmedicine.org