Pregnancy and relapsing MS

Pregnancy is something that many women with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) have thought about or experienced, as MS often first affects women when they are of childbearing age. There is no evidence that having MS will affect your fertility, lead to an increased number of complications during pregnancy, or affect your baby’s health; however, being pregnant with MS can have unique challenges in addition to your usual maternal concern for the health of your baby. Make sure that your obstetrician is aware that you have MS, and that he or she is communicating with your neurologist.

Does pregnancy make MS worse?

In most cases, pregnancy does not make MS symptoms worse. In fact, women often find that MS relapses occur less frequently during pregnancy, especially in their second and third trimesters.

During the first 3 to 6 months after giving birth, some women may experience a worsening or relapse of their MS symptoms. 

Being pregnant can also make some existing symptoms of MS more difficult to cope with, such as any bladder and bowel problems and fatigue (tiredness). Women may notice their center of gravity shift as they gain weight, which can increase any existing problems with balance and worsen unsteadiness when walking. As symptoms of MS can make childcare challenging, there is an added complication of having to think ahead about how they will look after children in the future. However, planning ahead with the help of friends, family, and their doctor can help women with MS who are interested in having a family.

Is my baby at risk of getting MS?

A common concern for expectant parents with MS is that their child may be more likely to be diagnosed with MS. MS is not classed as a genetic (inherited) condition as there has not been one specific gene identified that causes it. However, family studies indicate that children who have a family member with MS are slightly more likely to develop MS than a child who does not have a family member with MS. For example, the average person in the USA has a 1 in 750 chance of developing MS. This means that for every 750 people, one person will develop MS. For someone with a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with MS the chance of developing MS rises to 1 out of 100 to 1 out of 40. A doctor will be able to explain these risks to you in more detail. 

How will MS treatment affect my baby?

All pregnant women are told to think carefully about any substances (e.g. foods, drinks, and medicines) they put into their body, as some can move from the mother’s bloodstream directly to the baby’s bloodstream (through the placenta). It is important to discuss all medicines that you are taking with your doctor when you are pregnant, including herbal medicines. Your doctor will weigh the risks and benefits of any medicines that you are currently taking to help you decide what to take during your pregnancy.

New mothers with MS may have questions about breastfeeding their baby. MS itself is not known to have an effect on breastfeeding, but if you are taking any medications for MS, you should talk to your doctor about the best way to feed your baby.

In many cases, the effect of a particular medicine on the health of babies is unknown. This is because pregnant women are not usually included in clinical research studies where potential new medicines are being tested. Pregnancy registries are designed to learn more about medicines and their effects on babies in order to provide women in the future and their doctors with information to help them make informed decisions about their treatment during pregnancy.

Learn about PLEGnancy, the PLEGRIDY® (peginterferon beta-1a) Pregnancy Exposure Registry here.

Where can I go for help and advice?

Your healthcare team should be the first source of information about pregnancy and MS. In addition, there are many MS societies where you can seek help and advice from people who have experience with MS and pregnancy. Your doctor may be able to help you get in touch with a society that is active in your local area.

Please see full Prescribing InformationMedication Guide, and Instructions for Use for additional important safety information. This information is not intended to replace discussions with your healthcare provider.