Pregnancy and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Pregnancy & MS

Considerations before starting a family
Pregnancy and MS

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was 26 years old and newly married. I was working full time and had just started graduate school. I remember wondering early on in my diagnosis if I would ever be able to have a child. Some of the things that ran through my mind were:

  • Could I have a baby?
  • Should I have a baby?
  • Would I be a good parent?

With so much going on in my life, my husband and I decided that we would hold off on having a child until I was almost finished with graduate school. We used this time to seek out answers to the questions that I had.

It took a little bit of searching, but I was able to connect with someone who had a baby after her diagnosis of MS. Finding this person was not easy. I started by emailing support group leaders and asking them if they knew anyone. I had to put myself out there and ask, but I am so thankful that I did. Connecting with someone who understood my concerns and knew what I was going through was extremely helpful.

After doing some research, I found an MS specialist who was able to address some of my concerns. The first question I asked him was whether I could I have a baby. He was very helpful and willing to answer all my questions. Some of the other questions I asked were:

  • How will my current therapy affect my ability to get pregnant?
  • Will my MS symptoms affect my pregnancy?
  • What happens if I have an MS relapse immediately after my pregnancy? 

Being Pregnant With MS

In my final semester of graduate school, I became pregnant. My husband and I were overjoyed. My pregnancy was very positive. I embraced the emotions and moments of that time. We took pictures every week of my growing belly and settled on the name Jacob when we found out we were having a boy.

Nine months later, my husband and I welcomed Jacob into the world. We were so happy. We finally had the little family we planned.

Below are some tips based on my experience:

  • Planning: My husband and I talked a lot about what parenting would be like and how we could do it together. A lot of these conversations were discussed before I got pregnant and during my pregnancy. Planning early helped alleviate some of our concerns
  • Co-parenting: My husband and I decided early on that we would be 50/50 parents. This meant we would alternate diaper changes, baths, etc. Sometimes we would do these things together, but it helped that we were sharing responsibilities. Going into parenting this way was very important for us. Get more tips for parenting with MS here
  • Addressing MS symptoms: I was worried that my symptoms would get in the way of my parenting duties. But having a strong support system was helpful and made me feel very comfortable. At times, my husband would do extra things so I could manage my fatigue. We knew if I addressed my fatigue, I might have more energy to do some of the things with our son that I really wanted to do
  • My husband and I also came up with a feeding schedule. He is a night owl, and I need extra sleep. I fed our son anytime up to 9:30 PM. He would feed our son any time after that until 4 AM. I would then feed Jacob in the early hours of the morning. I cannot express how helpful this system was for us
  • Working with your healthcare team: My healthcare team was there to help me before, during, and after my pregnancy. I made sure that I shared any concerns I had with my doctors. For example, my neurologist was very helpful with giving me information about starting back on my relapsing MS medication. In addition, I made sure to regularly touch base with him after having Jacob. My OBGYN was very helpful to talk with when I was worried about not being able to breastfeed. Jacob’s pediatrician even became a part of my team too. He gave me good advice on parenting, and provided tips for taking care of a baby while living with a chronic illness. Find tips for connecting your healthcare team here
  • Breastfeeding: When I had Jacob, I was advised that I should not breastfeed when starting back on my treatment a few weeks after delivery. I was sad that I would miss out on breastfeeding, but I felt so thankful to be having a baby. Formula feeding offered a positive opportunity for my husband as he was able to help out quite a bit. This helped with their bonding as my husband settled into becoming a new dad. Breastfeeding is a personal choice. Be sure to talk to your doctor about whether breastfeeding may be right for you and your child

Keep in mind, everyone's situation is different and this is just my own personal experience. Pregnancy may not be appropriate or possible for everyone. Please talk to your doctor if you have any questions relating to pregnancy and MS. He or she will help you make a decision based upon your specific condition and weigh the potential benefits and risks.

Starting a Family With MS

Focus on what matters most

Having a family has always been a dream of mine. And for me, deciding to have Jacob was one of the best decisions that my husband and I ever made. I am thankful that we decided to have a baby regardless of my MS. Since having Jacob, my condition is not the only focus of my life. Being a mom with MS has motivated me to make the most of every moment spent with my family. Being a good mom was something that I aspired to be. Now I am one, and I just happen to have MS too.

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