Most people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) are women in their child-bearing years. Questions about whether MS affects getting pregnant or about labor and delivery are common.
Here are some answers:
Most couples in which one partner has MS are able to have children without MS affecting the pregnancy, labor, or delivery.
MS does not increase the risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
Some women have fewer MS symptoms during pregnancy, then a temporary relapse after delivery. But pregnancy, delivering a baby, and early motherhood do not increase the risk of being disabled by MS over time.footnote 1
There is some evidence that pregnancy may actually help delay disability long-term in women who have MS.footnote 2
If you have MS, and you want to have children, talk with your doctor. Some things to think about and plan for include:
Some medicines used to treat MS should not be used during pregnancy. If you are taking medicine for MS, use reliable birth control until you decide to try to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about when to stop taking the medicine. In some cases, your doctor may suggest that you wait to start trying to get pregnant until a relapse has ended and you are not taking medicine.
Some medicines used to treat MS should not be used during breastfeeding. The decision about when to start taking MS medicines again after pregnancy is an individual decision each woman will need to make. Talk with your doctor and consider your personal values, desires, and the severity of your MS.
Some symptoms common in pregnancy and after the baby's birth can be made worse by MS. These include depression and fatigue. Plan for any help you may need to manage your work, household, and other children during pregnancy and for the first few months after the baby is born.
The baby may be slightly more likely to develop MS later in life than a child born to parents who do not have MS.
Some people with MS become disabled over time. Because of this, some couples decide not to have children or to have fewer children than they might have otherwise. Other couples don't change their plans for a family after they learn about MS.
Both women and men who have MS may need help to overcome sexual problems, such as problems with arousal or ejaculation.
Find an obstetrician to care for you through your pregnancy and delivery. Find one who is willing to work closely with the doctor who helps you manage your MS. Because fatigue, depression, and medicine use during breastfeeding are all issues to think about after the baby is born, you may also want the pediatrician you choose for your baby to be aware of your MS.
Bennett KA (2005). Pregnancy and multiple sclerosis. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 48(1): 38â€“47.
D'hooghe MB, et al. (2010). Long-term effects of childbirth in MS. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 81(1): 38â€“41.
Other Works Consulted
Giesser B (2010). Reproductive Issues in Persons With Multiple Sclerosis. Clinical Bulletin: Information Health Professionals. Available online: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/for-professionals/healthcare-professionals/publications/clinical-bulletins/index.aspx.
Kelly VM, et al. (2009). Obstetric outcomes in women with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Neurology, 73(22): 1831â€“1836.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKarin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology