Pregnancy and birth
Having MS shouldn't stop you having a baby, but careful planning with your family, friends and your doctor becomes more important.
Often, an MS nurse will contact your midwife to ensure appropriate pregnancy care plans are in place.
Read more about pregnancy and MS
MS doesn't affect your fertility. However, some drugs used to treat MS may have an effect on your menstrual cycle and some medications are unsafe during pregnancy.
One disease modifying therapy (DMT), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), has a licence allowing it to be used during pregnancy. Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) doesn’t seem to pose any risk either. If a woman takes alemtuzumab, she can safely get pregnant once four months have passed since her last treatment.
If you’re pregnant or trying to have a baby, talk over with your specialist whether the DMT you’re taking is safe to take.
If you're taking other medications when 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's important to discuss your medications with your doctor before making any changes, as it can be dangerous to stop taking some medications suddenly.
Pregnancy and relapses
There've 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's thought hormone levels play a role.
However, in the first three months after the baby is born, your risk of relapse rises. We think this happens because your hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels.
Research suggests post-pregnancy relapses don't increase long-term levels of disability. In other words, pregnancy should have no effect on the progression of your MS in the long-term.
- Pregnancy and MS symptoms
Medication during pregnancy
When deciding 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 DMTs, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Leading MS doctors say glatiramer acetate (Copaxone) is safe for women to take who want to have a child or who are pregnant.
Pregnancy and giving birth
Having MS will not directly affect your 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 you need to have a caesarian. And both epidurals, and anaesthetics for caesarean births, are as safe for people with MS as they are for anyone.
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.
Children getting MS
Unlike some conditions, MS is not directly inherited from parent to child.
Children with a parent with MS are estimated to have around a 1.5% per cent risk of getting MS. This means around one in 67 children born to a mother or father with MS is likely to get MS themselves. A recent study suggests the risk could be even smaller than this figure.
In the general population one out of every 600 people have MS.
So, although having a parent with MS increases the risk, it is still very small.