Childbirth for Women with MS - dummies

By Rosalind Kalb, Barbara Giesser, Kathleen Costello

Despite popular belief, moms with multiple sclerosis (MS) deliver their babies just like other women do (you know, with lots of yelling, grunting, and gnashing of teeth). And just like women without MS, you have anesthesia options to make childbirth a little easier. If you want or need anesthesia, all types are considered safe for you to use — the choice is up to you and your physician.

Since 1950, research has repeatedly confirmed that women with multiple sclerosis (MS) can have healthy babies with no increased risk of miscarriages or fetal abnormalities. Children who have a parent with MS do have a somewhat higher risk of developing MS than children in the general population, but the risk remains relatively low at approximately 3 to 5 percent. Unfortunately, no test or genetic study currently exists that can determine your child’s risk of developing MS.

A recent, well-designed study compared 432 births to women with MS and 2,975 births to women without MS in British Columbia. The investigators looked at a variety of important factors related to the health of the newborns, the types of deliveries the mothers experienced, and the duration and severity of the moms’ MS.

The good news is that the pregnancy outcomes in the moms with MS didn’t differ from the pregnancy outcomes of the moms without MS. Babies born to moms with MS had the same fetal development and weighed the same at birth as the babies born to moms without MS. The moms with MS were no more likely than the other moms to need a Cesarean section or assisted vaginal delivery.

Women who were more disabled by their MS were slightly more likely to experience difficult deliveries, but the difference wasn’t great enough to be considered significant. However, the moms with MS were more likely to be overweight — probably because of decreased mobility.

Because obesity is known to be associated with problems in pregnancy and childbirth in the general population, talk with your doctor about strategies for maintaining a healthy weight before, during, and after delivering your baby.

Even though evidence shows that moms with MS do well during pregnancy and delivery, some obstetricians and anesthesiologists in various parts of the country may be reluctant to take you on as a patient because they mistakenly consider pregnancy and delivery in a woman with MS to be “high risk.”

So be sure to discuss your pregnancy and delivery with your obstetrician from the get-go, and make an appointment to meet with the anesthesiologist ahead of time. These conversations can help ensure that your big day is as comfortable and stress-free as it can possibly be. (Check out the National MS Society website for information about pregnancy and delivery that you can share with your doctors.)