Pregnancy & MS

Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy

Getting Pregnant with MS

Did you know that women with Multiple Sclerosis can get pregnant? Something that I didn’t know when I was diagnosed and I am sure many people didn’t know until I announced my pregnancy is that women with Multiple Sclerosis can get pregnant. Some autoimmune diseases do impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant or can cause miscarriages, such as Lupus, but having MS did not cause my miscarriages. My miscarriages, as with the case of the majority of miscarriages, are believed to be caused by chromosome abnormalities.

Is Pregnancy More Difficult with MS?

Maybe you knew that pregnancy was possible, but it seems like it might be more difficult for a person with MS. This is not true. Personally, when I was pregnant with Luke, I had the easiest pregnancy. I did have morning sickness, which mostly happened in the evenings after dinner, but my second and third trimester was a breeze. I honestly can say I felt fantastic and I could see why some women have tons of babies. So far, in my current pregnancy, the morning sickness has been way worse and hit me really early on. Probably about 4.5 weeks in I started noticing the morning sickness and I would be sick all day and night for weeks. I was exhausted and napping a ton. The first trimester and a little into the second were rough. Now, that I am 21 weeks, my energy level and my appetite has returned and things are getting easier again. So, I would say that having MS does not make pregnancy more difficult. I get the same pregnancy symptoms as any other woman who gets pregnant (some get more symptoms than others or different symptoms for different pregnancies).

Pregnancy Side-by-side
I was barely showing at 21 weeks my first pregnancy! You can’t mistake my pregnant belly this time around.

Positive Aspects of Pregnancy for MS

Even though pregnancy itself does not differ for a woman with MS, pregnancy can positively impact a woman with MS. 

It turns out that many women who have MS find that their MS symptoms get better during their second and third trimesters. Also, relapses are very unlikely to occur during pregnancy. However, according to the National MS Society, the risk of an MS relapse in the first three to six months postpartum increases. On the other hand, some recent studies show that postpartum may no longer be as big of a concern and exclusively breastfeeding can actually lower the risk of postpartum relapse. All this information feels like good news to me. There is this nice window of time that I don’t have to worry too much about a relapse while I am pregnant. And, since I plan and hope to exclusively breastfeed, that should help lower the risk of postpartum relapse. All of this new information this time around makes me feel very grateful that I didn’t experience, or at least to my knowledge, a relapse after Luke was born. I was able to breastfeed him and feel healthy and normal that first year postpartum. Unfortunately, this time around, I am more aware that if something feels “off” I may end up needing to go back onto my meds and have to stop breastfeeding. When I first found out this news, I was devastated. The possibility of not having the opportunity to breastfeed my second baby was disheartening, just more bad news. It was such a special bonding opportunity for me and Luke. However, I have always preached that “fed is best”. I think it is more important for my next baby to have a healthy mother even if that means I have to stop breastfeeding early. But, if you are looking for an opportunity to pray for me, feel free to pray that I don’t have a relapse in the first year postpartum so I can breastfeed this baby girl and care for both of my children in what is sure to be a busy year.

The Choice of Getting Pregnant with MS

Is it smart for a woman with MS to get pregnant knowing that they have a disease that could impact their health? Is it recommended? Maybe you were someone who didn’t know that women with MS could get pregnant, or maybe you are just surprised that I would want to expand my family when there are so many unknowns with the disease.

I remember the neurologist telling me about my diagnosis and asking me if I had any questions. He was probably surprised that one of my first and only questions was about whether or not I was going to be able to have more children. The two neurologists that I have seen have actually encouraged me to get pregnant, saying that MS should not stop me from living my life and that we should continue with our family plans. In fact, my current neurologist told me that the only thing that I shouldn’t do now that I have MS is pick up smoking (no problem). However, I remember going home and for the first few weeks following my diagnosis, I wondered if it was the “smart” thing to do. It was the first time I was actually thankful that I was currently taking a month off from “trying”, per my OBGYN’s recommendation, so I had time to process and think through things. 

Some of the questions I was considering:

  • What if my disease takes a sharp turn and gets drastically worse?
  • Will I be able to care for a family in the way that I desire?
  • What is Mitchell thinking?
  • Does he want more kids now that he knows I have MS?
  • Is he ready for this kind of responsibility? 
  • What kind of pressure does this put on him (with him knowing that one of my deepest desires is to have at least one more child)?

These are just a few of the thoughts and questions that raced through my mind about whether or not we should continue with our family plans. Mitchell and I have only encountered two people that vocally were surprised that we continued to try for a second. It always surprises me when people blurt out their opinions, but the fact of the matter is that I am sure there are a lot more people that are thinking those same thoughts that just don’t say it to our face (no harm if you are one of them). Here is the thing I have learned, as humans, we glance at other people’s lives and think we know the “easy” and “smart” choices that people should make. We think it is crystal clear and often, people make the exact opposite choice. We sit and “judge” them for their decisions and wish them luck. However, we don’t get to make choices for other people and our opinions rarely matter. If I had a strong desire to go back to school and get a fancy degree and climb the corporate ladder, I bet people would be all for that decision. But, when it comes to expanding a family, it is a bigger deal. Taking care of another human is a lot of work. Some people may think it is selfish, but I am perfectly fine and healthy at this point in my disease. Why would I sit around and wait for my disease to attack instead of doing something that I love? Even if I was further along in my disease and had more issues, if it was a passion of mine, and Mitchell and I decided it was worth the extra work and needed care, it would be our decision to make. Personally, I am going to do whatever I need to do to make sure my babies have the care that they need, even if that means I need extra hands or assistance at some point. I may end up needing more help than the average mom. I could encounter more obstacles and hurdles than some moms, but at least I am following my heart and doing the things I love and am passionate about. I am not going to live my life regretting not having at least one more child just because of a diagnosis that may or may not impact my life. I am going to give my heart and soul to loving my children and do the best that I can to care for them. And, hopefully, one day they will know that I did my best.






2 responses to “Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy”

  1. Debbie Avatar

    When I found out I probably had MS, we cried and then went on with life. Fortunately, I had no symptoms during all that time. I feel so blessed.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Debbie, so glad you didn’t have symptoms for a while! It is so emotional to get that kind of news. I am feeling blessed too.