Photo: Woman with MS talking to health care professional

Periods, contraception and menopause

MS affects more women than men and many women are diagnosed in their twenties and thirties.

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Menstrual periods and MS

Women with MS say that their symptoms often feel worse around their periods, especially weakness, balance, fatigue and depression.

Just before, and during a period, the core body temperature rises a little and this can sometimes make MS symptoms feel worse.

Some medications used to treat MS can have an effect on the menstrual cycle. Some antidepressants, Mitoxantrone, and beta interferon can also cause problems such as irregular periods or 'spotting' in between periods.

However, these side effects often improve on their own after several months of taking the treatment. Glatiramer acetate has no known effects on menstruation.

If dealing with periods becomes problematic, you might think about minimising periods or even stopping them altogether. There are various ways of doing this, such as using certain types of contraceptive pill or hormone-based intrauterine devices (sometimes known as 'coils').

Contraception and MS

As MS doesn’t affect fertility, the usual decisions about birth control need to be made. Finding the right method of contraception is important for all women, and women with MS can generally use any of the contraceptive methods available.

When making choices about contraception it’s a good idea to consider factors such as manual dexterity and coordination, other medications you are taking and possible risk of infections.

Menopause and MS

During menopause the body stops producing oestrogen in any significant quantity.

There is no evidence to show this has either a positive or negative effect on relapse rate or progression of MS.

Certain symptoms, such as fatigue and bladder problems, can however feel worse.

All types of hormone replacement therapy can be used by women with MS (tablets, patches, gels and implants). All women considering hormone replacement therapy should consult their doctor, MS nurse or other healthcare professional before making a decision.