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Pregnancy Problems

MS During Pregnancy

If you have multiple sclerosis, you’re probably wondering if you can have a healthy pregnancy. We've got all the details.

What is multiple sclerosis (MS) during pregnancy?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. Over time, the body attacks the brain and spinal cord, which makes it difficult for nerve signals to travel effectively from the brain to the muscles. People with MS experience a gradual decline in their physical movement and thinking.

What are the signs of MS?

Early symptoms include blurred vision, problems with muscle movement and numbness or tingling in the legs. As the disease progresses, movement becomes more difficult. People with MS become increasingly uncoordinated and may struggle with balance. Constipation and difficulty with bladder control can occur. So can depression, difficulties with speech and sexual difficulties.

Are there any tests for MS?

Yes. But it can be difficult to diagnose MS, because many other conditions cause similar symptoms, especially at the beginning of the disease process. Tests your doctor might order include an MRI of the brain and spinal cord, a lumbar puncture (a procedure that removes a bit of your spinal fluid from your back for analysis) and evoked potential testing, a kind of electrical testing that tests the response of your nerves.

How common is MS during pregnancy?

“Women are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis approximately twice as frequently as men, with the onset of the disease occurring during the childbearing years in most cases,” says James O’Brien, MD, ob-gyn, medical director of inpatient obstetrics at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. In other words, it’s not uncommon for women with MS to consider pregnancy.

How did I get MS?

No one is really sure, but researchers think that genetics, the environment and certain viruses may cause (or help cause) MS.

How will MS affect my baby?

Most women with MS will have perfectly healthy babies. Recent studies have shown that babies born to moms with MS are no more likely to have low birth weight, have birth defects, be born early or be delivered by C-section (yay!).

Some of the meds used to treat MS can cause birth defects, though, so “women who are being treated should tell their physicians when they’re considering pregnancy,” Dr. O’Brien says (see next page for pregnancy-safe treatments).

What’s the best way to treat MS during pregnancy?

None of the major MS drugs are approved for use in pregnancy, so you’ll have to work with your doctor to find the regimen that’s right for you. Luckily, some women with MS notice that their symptoms let up during pregnancy. But beware: It’s not uncommon to have a relapse in the first few months after your baby is born.

What can I do to prevent MS?

You can’t. But if you have it, you can work with your doctor to manage the symptoms.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have MS?

“In order to try and get pregnant, I had to go off of my MS treatment and all other medications I was on. I went through horrible withdrawal for a good two months after going off my medication. And just when I started to feel better, we got pregnant.”

Are there any other resources for MS During Pregnancy?

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Yale School of Medicine

Plus, more from The Bump:

Fatigue During Pregnancy

Depression During Pregnancy

Constipation During Pregnancy

By Jennifer L.W. Fink