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Managing MS: Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Thinking about getting pregnant? Women with multiple sclerosis are as likely to get pregnant, and have a healthy pregnancy as anyone else.

But MS can pose some challenges when you're pregnant. So, it’s good to be aware and plan ahead.

Before Pregnancy

Talk to your doctor.  If you're thinking about starting a family -- or adding to it -- let your doctor know. Many MS medications-- like Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Rebif, Tysabri, and others -- aren’t safe for your baby. You’ll need to stop taking them before you try to get pregnant. Some others, like Aubagio, are risky even for men who wish to father a child.

Connect. If you aren’t already part of an MS support group, now’s a good time to seek one out. Talk to other women with MS who have kids. Get tips on how to manage pregnancy and life with a new baby.

Plan for the future.  What would happen if you had a flare after your baby’s birth? Do you have family and friends who can lend a hand if you need it? It’s good to choose your go-to back-ups before you get pregnant.

During Pregnancy

Enjoy the benefits. Pregnancy naturally seems to ease MS symptoms for many women, especially in the third trimester. So if you get a reprieve, enjoy it.

Get treatment if you need it. If you aren’t feeling good or are having problems, let your doctor know. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable for anyone. If you have an issue, don’t ignore it. Talk to your doctor about medication you can take while you're pregnant. If you have difficulty getting around, it may get even harder late in your pregnancy. A cane or other device may help you.

Plan for delivery. Most women with MS give birth just like anyone else. But muscle weakness can come into play. You may have a higher likelihood of a C-section. If MS has caused a loss of feeling in your pelvis, you may need to be watched more closely the last month of your pregnancy.

After Birth

Watch for flares. Up to 6 months after birth, your chances of a flare are higher. About 1 out of 3 women with MS have one. Be aware and see your doctor if you have symptoms.

These flares don't raise your risk of long-term problems. In fact, some studies suggest that women with MS who have kids have a better prognosis later in life than women who never had children.

Think about breastfeeding. It has no effect on MS symptoms. Breastfeeding is perfectly safe, as long as you feel up to it. But you’ll have to stay off interferons and other disease-modifying drugs while you breastfeed. They're risky for your baby. You and your doctor will decide what is best.

Take care of yourself. Any new mom needs to get plenty of rest. Having MS makes it even more important. Focus on caring for yourself and your baby. Take advantage of offers for help. When possible, have others do the laundry, shopping, and cleaning.

MS is unpredictable, so it can be hard to plan ahead. Don’t let that worry you. Deciding to have a child is always a leap of faith. If, after talking with your doctor and partner, you still feel ready, don't let MS stop you. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 30, 2013
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