Pregnancy With Multiple Sclerosis
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Pregnancy With Multiple Sclerosis

Research shows having multiple sclerosis, or MS, doesn’t affect your chances of getting pregnant, although people with the condition tend to have fewer overall pregnancies. The symptoms of MS can make it harder to physically carry a pregnancy. You may have trouble with muscle weakness, coordination, tiredness, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Before Pregnancy
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Before Pregnancy

If you’re planning a pregnancy, talk to your doctor about ways to lower your chances of an MS relapse. They may suggest disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) to ward off a relapse without exposing your unborn baby to the drugs. You’ll start therapy several months before trying to get pregnant and will likely need to stop the drugs during your pregnancy.

Prenatal Visits
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Prenatal Visits

Your doctor will want to keep a close eye on you throughout your pregnancy. You may need to visit the doctor more often, including your neurologist and obstetrician, to check your and your baby’s health.

MS Treatment During Pregnancy
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MS Treatment During Pregnancy

There is no cure for MS, but there are several treatments to improve your symptoms. While pregnant, your doctor could suggest steroids or other drugs to help with inflammation. There’s also a therapy called plasmapheresis, where blood plasma is “cleansed” of harmful elements. Some research shows it works for those having an MS relapse.

Rehab During Pregnancy With MS
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Rehab During Pregnancy With MS

Rehabilitation can help prepare you for pregnancy with MS. This could include things like:

●    Practicing activities of daily living (ADLs), or skills needed to live independently
●    Handling canes, braces, and walkers
●    Exercise to boost muscle strength and stamina
●    Enhancing communication and motor skills
●    Controlling bowel and bladder issues
●    Making changes around your home to make sure it’s safe 

Labor With MS
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Labor With MS

Since MS can cause paralysis, you may not feel the typical signs of labor, like pain. Talk to your doctor about other signs to watch out for, such as: 

●    An uncomfortable feeling in your stomach
●    Flushing
●    Backache  

MS can also impact the muscles you use to push during labor, so it’s possible you’ll need a C-section, or cesarean, which is when the baby is surgically removed instead of pushed out.

After Delivery
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After Delivery

Pregnancy tends to slow MS relapses, mainly in your second and third trimesters. But you may have a higher chance of relapse in the first few months after giving birth, although some scientific research doesn’t support this. One review found that breastfeeding may protect against relapse after delivery.

Breastfeeding and Resuming Treatment
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Breastfeeding and Resuming Treatment

After delivery, you’ll probably restart treatment for MS. If you decide to nurse, you may wonder if you can pass medications through your breastmilk. DMTs are not approved for breastfeeding. Corticosteroids can pass into breast milk, but they’re safe to use.

If you decide not to breastfeed, you can resume MS treatment around 2 to 4 weeks after delivery.

Postpartum Depression With MS
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Postpartum Depression With MS

People living with MS have a higher chance of depression, and some studies show it may also be more common after giving birth. Talk to your doctor if you:

  • Have serious mood swings
  • Cry too much
  • Have trouble bonding with your baby
  • Isolate yourself from loved ones

Your doctor may suggest therapy, medication, or both to treat postpartum depression.

Managing Stress
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Managing Stress

Living with MS, coupled with being a new parent, can heighten feelings of stress. People with MS say stress actually makes their symptoms worse. The good news is, there are strategies to ease stress, including:

  • Meditation
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Sports
  • Keeping a journal
  • Hobbies
  • Spending time with loved ones

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SOURCES: 

Medicina: “Pregnancy and Multiple Sclerosis: An Update on the Disease Modifying Treatment Strategy and a Review of Pregnancy’s Impact on Disease Activity.”

Penn Medicine: “Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Pregnancy.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Plasmapheresis,” “Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues,” “Reproductive Health,” “Emotional Well-Being.”

Mayo Clinic: “Postpartum Depression.”