If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, one of your first questions might be how this disease will affect pregnancy. Women of childbearing age are the largest demographic group who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Because the symptoms of MS can be unpredictable, pregnancy with this condition is different for everyone. However, the good news is that most experts feel that it is safe to have a baby if you have MS, and the disease is not known to impact fertility.
For those people with MS who are physically disabled, the effects of pregnancy on the body can be more pronounced. In addition, some of these effects, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, and coordination problems, as well as bladder and bowel incontinence, may worsen during pregnancy. If you are paralyzed as a result of the disease, you may not feel contractions when labor begins and may have difficulty pushing during labor, which makes a Caesarean section and other interventions more likely.
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Beyond these effects, however, several large clinical studies have shown that women with MS are no more likely to experience pregnancy and fetal complications than women without the disease, even with significant disability. In fact, some research suggests that MS relapses may lessen during pregnancy (though incidence of relapse is often higher during the six months after birth.)
Women with MS are typically considered high risk for complications during pregnancy, which means you’ll need to be monitored closely by both your obstetrician and your regular MS specialists. If you are already on medications to treat MS, talk with your doctors before getting pregnant, as many of these drugs are not cleared for safe use during pregnancy. Your doctor may choose to treat your symptoms with corticosteroids, which are safe for your baby.
You may also be concerned about your child’s chance of developing MS. Children born to women with MS have a three to five percent lifetime chance of developing the disease. While this may seem high, keep in mind that this means there is about a 96 percent chance that your child will never have MS.
Keeping up with treatments and talking with your doctor about ways to alleviate new symptoms that arise are important to ensure that you and your baby have as happy and healthy nine months as possible. Not only is having a baby when you have MS typically safe for your child, the long term course of the disease will not be negatively affected.