Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disorder that is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20-40 and affects women much more often than it does men (ratios I found vary from a 2-3:1). Being that diagnosis so often occurs during the fertile years of a woman’s life chances are that at least the heterosexual women are either having babies at the time, wanting to have babies or actively avoiding pregnancy. Despite the fact that these things are all happening at the same time it is amazing how difficult it is to find any sort of consistent recommendations when it comes to multiple sclerosis and in particular the treatment of it relating to both pregnancy and to breastfeeding.
I was diagnosed with MS well before even considering having children and am amazed to hear stories about what the moms I have met from all over the country are told when it comes to the ‘right’ thing to do for both themselves and their baby during this time.
In 2005, almost 4 years after being diagnosed, I was taking a drug called Copaxone. I had selected Copaxone because the doctor who prescribed it told me that ‘if’ I got pregnant, basically it is the only drug not guaranteed to mess my baby up. This was a scary thing to hear; I knew that if I did get pregnant I would not want to abort so I chose this drug.
Once I became pregnant however, I had a different neurologist who was clearly very nervous about me staying on any of the MS drugs. My obstetrician/gynecologist told me that it was no big deal though; that it was a “Class B” drug and that meant I had nothing to worry about. She also made a point to tell me that it was important to keep taking it so that I would stay strong and healthy to take care of the baby. This is when I began to see that I was getting a different story/opinion from just about every doctor that I spoke to. All of this was back in early 2005, and the one thing that they did agree on at this point in time was that the ‘other’ drugs were absolutely not safe, and that it was good I was not taking them.
I stayed on Copaxone, and had a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience. I continued taking the medicine until my daughter was about 6 months old and other situations in life (moving/insurance changes) kept me from continuing.
In 2007, after moving from New York to Seattle and through the process of ‘rebuilding’ my medical team locally, I got back on Copaxone. I continued on the medication until I became pregnant in 2008 with my second baby, and my doctors told me at that time the risk of what could happen absolutely wasn’t worth it.
Did you get pregnant after you were diagnosed with MS? We would love to hear your pregnancy stories.
Kristin Bennett is a mother of three children and is the founder of MomsWithMS.org which has an online peer support community for mothers to get and give support established in 2009. She created it because it was something that she couldn’t find, and needed as a mom with MS. For an extended version on this topic click here.