Pregnancy and birth

The majority of women who have MS are diagnosed in their twenties and thirties, at a time when they may be thinking about starting a family. 

Having MS shouldn't stop you from having a baby, but careful planning with family, friends and your doctor becomes more important.

Often, an MS nurse will contact the midwife to ensure appropriate pregnancy care plans are in place.

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For a more detailed look at MS and pregnancy, see our MS Essentials publication on women's health.

Getting pregnant

MS does not affect women's fertility. However, some drugs used to treat MS may have an effect on the menstrual cycle; and some medications are unsafe during pregnancy.

If you are taking any medications, and you decide to try for a baby, the usual advice is to wait at least three months after stopping treatment before trying to conceive. It is important to discuss your medications with your doctor before making any changes as it can be dangerous to stop taking some medications suddenly.

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Pregnancy and relapses

There have been many studies examining the impact of pregnancy on MS. They all show that pregnancy appears to have a positive protective influence, with relapse rates going down, especially during the third trimester (between six and nine months). The reasons for this are not fully understood, but it is thought that hormone levels play a role.

However, in the first three months after the baby is born, the risk of relapse rises. This is thought to occur as hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels.

Research suggests that these post-pregnancy relapses do not increase long-term levels of disability. In other words, pregnancy has no effect on the progression of MS in the long-term, rather the overall effect is neutral. 

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Pregnancy and MS symptoms

Although women may have fewer relapses during pregnancy, other MS symptoms can be affected.

Fatigue
Balance
Back pain
Bladder and bowel problems

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Medication during pregnancy

When determining whether you should stop taking a medication during pregnancy, the doctors will look at the risks that this would pose to you and the baby. If you do become pregnant while taking disease modifying drugs, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

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Pregnancy and giving birth

Having MS will not directly affect pregnancy, labour or giving birth. Several studies have shown that mothers with MS are just as likely as any other mothers to have healthy pregnancies and babies, and there is no research to show MS may increase risk of ectopic pregnancy (where a foetus develops in the fallopian tube), miscarriage, premature birth, still-birth or birth abnormalities.
 
Having MS doesn't mean there is a need for a caesarian. Both epidurals, and anaesthetics for caesarean births, are safe in women with MS.   

What will happen after I have my baby?

Whether or not you have MS, the period immediately after the birth can be very tiring and it can take time to adapt to the demands of having a baby to care for. For women with MS, planning to ensure there is support during this time is particularly important.

You may wish to contact and make lists of family and friends who can help with specific tasks, and find out about health services, local service provisions for mums and support groups. Many women find it reassuring to know local sources of support are available, and find early planning makes life easier when the baby is born.

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Children getting MS

Father and daughter at the dinner table

Unlike conditions such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, MS is not directly inherited.

Children with a parent with MS are estimated to have a two per cent risk of getting MS. In other words two out of 100 children born to people with MS are likely to get MS themselves.

The risk in the general population is one out of every 800 children.

So, although having a parent with MS increases the risk, it is still very small.

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