Linda M. and Julianna R. share their experiences of becoming pregnant while living with MS. Dr. Kaplan provides helpful information for women with MS who may be in a similar situation.
Family Planning & Pregnancy
Dr. Wanda Castro: Hi everybody. Welcome to She Talks MS. My name is Wanda Castro. I work for Biogen, and I’m going to be your host today. Today, we’re discussing family planning and pregnancy. Linda, when you were considering family planning, what were the most pressing questions?
Linda M.: When I was diagnosed, my son Max was 15 months old. We wanted to have more kids—we just weren’t sure. The diagnosis came at a time that we were trying to start to have more children. So, you know, there was a lot to consider. Was it okay to have more kids? How would it affect them? How would it affect me?
Wanda: In which way?
Linda M.: Would they get MS someday? That was the biggest concern.
Wanda: That was a big concern, okay. And Julianna, I know you have a son, right? What was it for you?
Julianna R.: So mine is a little bit strange in that our discussions for family planning and my diagnosis almost came hand in hand. In an interest to make sure I had a clean bill of health, I went to have a symptom checked out and then got diagnosed. We were actively trying to have children but then had to put a pause on that to figure out…
Wanda: Because of your diagnosis?
Julianna R.: Yeah, because of the diagnosis. And I had to try to figure out and find a team that would help me continue to pursue the goal of starting a family. But also help me manage and work through and plan for dealing with, you know, treatment and learning about MS at the same time.
Dr. Tamara Kaplan (Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital): These two scenarios are both so common—of people coming to me saying I’m considering planning a family. There’s been a huge shift in the way the medical community thinks about pregnancy and MS over the last few decades. It wasn’t actually until 1998 that we had a trial looking at women who were pregnant and had MS, and followed them for up to 12 months after pregnancy to really understand what is pregnancy doing in MS.
Wanda: Have you had the experience of neurologists or providers telling the patients you cannot have children?
Dr. Kaplan: Unfortunately, yes. Before all this data had come out, people were often nervous that MS could affect pregnancy, could affect their disease, and potentially their children as well.
Wanda: And Linda, what were your conversations with your husband?
Linda M.: We had to really sit down and have a very serious conversation. We had already had a 15-month-old at the time of my diagnosis. There were a lot of things to factor in on, you know, should we have more kids? But we had always planned on having two children. We were like, we can’t let this stop us. You know, if we get the okay from our doctors, let’s move forward, let’s not let this stand in the way. That was one of the best pieces of advice that my neurologist gave to me, is don’t let this change your life course.
Julianna R.: A lot of my questions, especially in the beginning, were similar to Linda’s. I learned a lot very quickly there, in an effort to try to not have to stop moving forward with family planning but also do it responsibly.
Linda M.: If someone’s newly diagnosed or has MS and wants to start a family, they might be able to do so. They shouldn’t let the diagnosis stand in their way.
Dr. Kaplan: I think one important thing for all women with MS to know is that it’s very possible to have a beautiful, healthy pregnancy with MS.
Wanda: Julianna and Linda, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. And Dr. Kaplan, for your pieces of advice.
Everyone’s experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. Your healthcare provider should always be your primary source of information. The people in this video are paid spokespeople for Biogen.
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