In the midst of one of the happiest times of my life, while weaning my first daughter from breastfeeding, I noticed an altered sensation on my left upper cheek and eyelid when the water hit my face in the shower. It lasted for a couple days and in the back of my head I wondered, “could this be multiple sclerosis?”
Ironically I was in school for my Nursing Practitioner and had just completed a clinical rotation in a multiple sclerosis clinic. I went to my primary care physician and he wasn’t too concerned, but three days later I began to have tingling in both hands/arms, as well as both legs and feet. At this point my physician referred me to a neurologist and I was diagnosed very quickly, based on my MRI. Apparently I must have had it for years, but my lesions were “silent”.
The following Spring I suffered a relapse with bilateral leg stiffness/tightness/weakness/heaviness and difficulty walking long distances or standing for any length of time. I had another MRI at this point and no new lesions were found but was put on another round of steroids.
Although my initial symptoms disappeared, the leg symptoms were the ones that would haunt me and accompany me pretty much daily until I became pregnant in February 2013. I went through a very deep, dark time and sought out anti-depressant therapy as well as working with a therapist. It was hard for me to accept this new life and body of mine; it felt foreign to me.
Around 4-5 months of pregnancy, I noticed my symptoms were less severe and finally disappeared. It was truly a miracle to me, as I had prayed and hoped for so long just to be able to live at least one day without these debilitating symptoms. I was able to be active again and enjoy the things that I used to love to do before MS struck. I could take long walks, go to the gym, hike, and just live my every day life without it sucking every bit of energy out of me.
I was somewhat anxious when it got close to my delivery date because I was worried that all of my symptoms would come back, but needless to say, I breastfed from the day my daughter was born, and still am today. Ainsley will be two years old in November and I am planning on nursing her for as long as she wants.
It is shown that hormones from breastfeeding suppress symptoms in women that nurse their babies. A few other friends with MS said the same happened for them. Most women are forced to choose between nursing and getting back on a disease modifying medication after delivery but I was glad to find out that I could safely take Copaxone, and started it the night I delivered.
All neurologists have different opinions, but I got the ok from my mine, my daughter’s pediatrician, as well as the lactation consultant. Apparently, the molecule size is too large to be passed via breast milk, and even if it did, Copaxone is essentially a man made amino acid. Again, this was my decision and people need to do what is right for them and what their health care provider recommends.
I can’t tell you how much my life has changed since getting pregnant with my second daughter, and still nursing her today. I am able to live a normal, active, “pre-MS” life right now that I never thought would be possible. I am currently following a daily nutrition and fitness program and am thankful to be able to do all that I can right now.
I plan to be in the best shape possible, physically and mentally to battle this monster if and when it shows its ugly head again. MS has taught me to never take anything for granted and to enjoy every day. I encourage all women either trying to get pregnant, or those who are pregnant, to research and consider all options after delivery regarding nursing and resuming medications.
Did you notice a difference in your MS symptoms during pregnancy and nursing?
Suzanne is an almost 36 year old living in western New York with her husband, and two girls, Cameron and Ainsley, as well as her first baby, Daisy, a 6 year old Yellow Lab. She currently stays home with her girls and works as a health and fitness coach from the comfort of her home. She was a RN for many years in different settings and also completed her Adult Nurse Practioner Degree. She was diagnosed in November of 2011 with relapsing-remitting MS, and is currently taking Copaxone. She enjoys being outdoors, spending time with her family and friends, staying as active as possible with her girls and watching football every Sunday.