“Don’t get pregnant, it could worsen your symptoms of multiple sclerosis.”
This is the message women received prior to the 1950s.
Now, we’re being told that not only is this not true, but we could experience relief from symptoms during pregnancy.
So is the rumor true… do you feel better during pregnancy?
Is there a risk for a relapse after you deliver?
These are the questions that ran through my head when I was 40 years old, living with multiple sclerosis and wanting to get pregnant.
What are the chances of getting pregnant?
Will MS affect my ability to conceive, carry and deliver healthy baby, and recover safely after delivery?
At the time of me writing this, I’m 41 years old and 21 weeks pregnant, and finally understanding the truth behind these questions.
Since sharing the news of my pregnancy, I’ve received a lot of messages with the same questions that were running through my mind. So, I wanted to share my experience with you.
I, by no means, am not an expert in fertility and/or pregnancy.
I’m simply a fellow MS warrior who wanted to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you do to.
So, let’s look at MS and pregnancy through all the stages.
Getting Ready to Conceive
I found it especially helpful and important to start talking with my neurologist about my intentions for pregnancy before we were even trying to conceive.
If you’re taking medication, this is especially important because there are some disease modifying therapies that are not approved during pregnancy while others are generally viewed as safe during pregnancy.
Giving yourself time to start planning for any changes that will take place once you have a confirmed pregnancy is really important.
I also viewed that as an opportunity to support my body with the best foods and keep stress in check as best as possible. This is a win-win because it supports fertility as well as managing MS.
MS is not believed to impact your ability to get pregnant, nor does it impact your ability to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
That said, most women get diagnosed with MS around childbearing years, so this may have delayed your personal timeframe of when you start trying to get pregnant, pushing you into later years which does effect fertility.
Personally, I got married later in life. So while I did fertility treatments, that was attributed to the fact that I was 40 years old, not the fact that I was living with multiple sclerosis.
Bottom line, it’s not believed that MS will have an impact on your fertility.
Once you are pregnant, it’s time to celebrate!
And I’m happy to say that there is more good news.
Many women experience relief or at least a stabilization of their symptoms during pregnancy – especially during the second and third trimester.
I personally found this to be true.
Pretty early on in my first trimester, I actually felt better than before pregnancy.
My neurologist confirmed it saying, most of her patients experience great relief during pregnancy, so she said to enjoy every minute of it and once I got closer to my due date we would create a postpartum plan.
Labor & Delivery
In terms of labor and delivery, I’ve been told that MS does not impact my ability to deliver my baby, nor does it impact my ability to receive an epidural. So I could decide what I wanted in my birth plan without having to worry about MS.
Your baby has arrived!
Are you at higher risk of relapse?
It’s long been believed that women are at high risk for a relapse after delivery.
However, more recent studies suggest that the risk of relapse has more to do with the mom’s pre-pregnancy disease activity.
According to the National MS Society, in “a study of 466 pregnancies over eight years, 74% of pregnancies were not followed by relapse in the first postpartum year and there was no rebound effect (i.e., post pregnancy relapse rates where not higher than prepartum relapse rates) (Langer-Gould et al., 2020).”
Lower rates are also shown in mothers who breastfed exclusively.
I think the key point in this study to note is that post pregnancy relapse rates were not higher than pre pregnancy relapse rates. So, if you’re living with a milder or stable disease state before pregnancy, the concern for a postpartum flare is likely not be as relevant to you.
If you have a more active disease activity before pregnancy, it’s important to talk with your neurologist about a postpartum plan.
Above all, it’s important to recognize that just as no two experiences with MS are exactly the same, no two pregnancies are exactly the same.
Do your research, talk with your neurologist and trust in your ability to adapt to whatever is needed.
A baby is one of life’s greatest miracles and blessings. Don’t lose sight of that in this process.
I would love to hear your experience. The more we share our stories, the more we’re aware that we’re not alone in this journey and just how resilient we all are.
Please share in the comments below!