Internationally, approximately 2.5 million people develop multiple sclerosis (MS). Most are women of child-bearing age. Subsequently, many ask the question as to whether this will affect their chances of having a successful pregnancy, or even a healthy baby.
Let’s first define what MS is. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. When the immune system starts to attack the myelin (fatty material that protects and surrounds the CNS nerves), thick scars can start to grow in this area.
This scarred tissue has a direct effect on the way electrical impulses are transmitted. This could mean that signals, which should go to your brain or spine, can be confused or totally blocked.
When most hear "MS", we may think of a debilitating and crippling disease. To be sure, there are many severe cases where paralysis and blindness develop. On the other hand, there are cases that are mild in nature. MS affects different people in varying degrees.
Now, for those who have this condition and want to have children, can they? At one point in history, doctors even asked, "Should they?"
Let’s answer the "Can they?" question first. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that there is no evidence that MS impairs fertility or even that MS causes spontaneous abortion, stillbirths or congenital malformations. With this group, it is practically no different than with women who do not have MS.
This leads us the to "Should they?" issue. Long ago, women with MS were advised not to get pregnant, mainly due to the perception that it might make symptoms worse for the woman.
However, there have been many studies that find that just the opposite is true. Pregnancy actually may reduce symptoms.
It is thought that this may be so because of the increase in the number of circulation proteins and variants that are basically considered immunosuppressants. Also, a pregnant woman’s natural corticosteroids rise and thereby may assist with improvement of any MS symptoms too.
Some MS drugs certainly cannot be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It will be up to you and your medical team to figure out your medical management during pregnancy. Steroids, however, can be used during pregnancy and prednisone can be used during breastfeeding.
If you have difficulty walking or standing due to MS, you may need assistance standing or even a wheelchair since pregnancy may affect this activity even more. Expect fatigue, bowel or bladder problems to increase.
So, in the end, it seems that, with the help of competent medical team and appropriate meds, most MS patients can have a successful and healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Web. 19 September 2011.
What is MS? MultipleSclerosis.com. Web. 19 September 2011.
Dita Faulkner is an advocate for what matters most to women. Please check out her blog at: http://redtoenails.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/gettin%e2%80%99-out-of-debt-in-2011/
Reviewed September 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith