This weekend we’re catching up with just a few of the hundreds of researchers presenting their latest results at MS Virtual 2020, the world’s biggest MS research conference. Today, Lubna Almouzain, a PhD student at University College London, tells us about the research on pregnancy and MS she’s presenting at the conference.
Hi Lubna! Before we delve into the research, can you tell us what sparked your interest in pregnancy and MS?
“My friend has MS. And when I was starting my Master’s degree she was pregnant with her first son. She had all these questions and uncertainties, but when I looked at the information out there, I couldn’t find the answers.
Fortunately, she did really well through her pregnancy and while she was breast-feeding. But since then, I’ve been dedicated to giving people with MS those answers.”
That’s lovely. So what is your current research about?
“I’m a clinical pharmacist so I’m interested in how decision-making about pregnancy relates to your choice of medications in MS.
But we also know how difficult it can be to cope with all the aspects of pregnancy and MS coming together. The disability, the uncertainty, the decision itself which is always life-changing. This is all within the scope of the research.”
And what progress have you made?
“I started my PhD this time last year. I began by doing a systematic literature review to find out what relevant research already exists.
Twenty years ago, people with MS who were thinking about getting pregnant didn’t really know much about the effect of pregnancy on their MS, their disability or their long-term future.
We need to know how this has evolved. Do people know more now? Or do we need to do more to inform them?”
We have lots of information now to guide you through a safe pregnancy. What’s really important is managing your medication and keeping your doctor posted during the whole trip.
Has your research been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?
“I’m from Saudi Arabia so I did have to come home in May. But it didn’t interrupt my studies and I’ve continued with my work remotely on my laptop.
The main challenge has been juggling work with keeping my children occupied while the schools are closed. And the heat. The temperatures have reached over 50 degrees!”
Ouch, that's hot! So what would you say to someone with MS thinking about starting a family?
“We have lots of information now to guide you through a safe pregnancy. What’s really important is managing your medication and keeping your doctor posted during the whole trip.
Pregnancy is hard for everyone. But you want to enjoy it. Make sure you share everything you’re feeling with your healthcare provider. Ask as many questions you can.”
Why did you want to present your research at MS Virtual 2020?
“This year the conference brings together everything from Europe and America. So you get to see the latest research from all over the world.
One of the main aims of attending a conference is to connect with experts in your field. My area of research is very scarce so I really want to connect with other people with the same interests.
I’m not sure if a virtual conference will be quite the same, but at least we’ll still have the chance to share our work.”
And lastly, can people get involved with your research?
“For the next stage of my PhD I’ll be recruiting both people with MS who are thinking about getting pregnant and people who took the decision not to have their own children. If anyone wants to get in touch they can find my details on the UCL website.”