There are twice as many women as men diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It is therefore not surprising that many questions asked by women, their families and partners alike are about MS symptoms and women.
Many women diagnosed with MS are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, a time when many of them are thinking about starting a family or are planning on having one in the not too distant future. Older women newly diagnosed with MS may also have questions. The information they receive at this time is very important and can make a big difference in their lives.
Needless to say, they could be experiencing heightened anxiety about pending discussions with their doctor or MS nurse about having children, menopause and what this could mean for them on an individual basis and as a family.
Can I still have children?
The diagnosis of MS raises a lot of questions for everyone. One of the main questions women in particular ask about MS symptoms in women is whether they can still have children.
According to research, MS does not affect your menstrual cycle and there is no information available to suggest it affects the fertility of a woman. In fact, women diagnosed with MS can use the full range of contraceptive pills and devices available on the market and are advised to think very carefully about their choice of contraception.
Medication prescribed to treat some of the symptoms of MS or depression may impact on the menstrual cycle; contraceptive pills may interact with these drugs so discussing contraceptives with your doctor or MS nurse is advisable.
When thinking about having a baby, women with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis should discuss their plans with their doctor or MS nurse. Your doctor should be able to advise you about changing or stopping drugs that affect your menstrual cycle as there may be alternatives that you can use to treat the symptoms of MS whilst minimizing or eliminating the effects on your menstrual cycle.
They will also be able to help you think of any issues, such as the impact of any medication you may be taking on your unborn child and whether you may be able to stop these safely. You would also be able to think through how you would cope or manage your symptoms during the pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.
Since MS symptoms in women do not affect you r menstrual cycle or fertility you can definitely get pregnant and have children if you so desire.
Will I have a difficult pregnancy and birth?
Pregnancy can be a very pleasant experience for women with MS. Research suggests that relapse rates decrease considerably especially in the third trimester, between the 6th and 9th month of pregnancy.
On the other hand, symptoms such as bladder and bowel problems, fatigue, balance and back pain may increase. Many women without MS also report an increase in some of these symptoms.
Many women worry about whether they will have complications and difficulties during their pregnancy and the birth of their baby, women with a diagnosis of MS are no different.
Research has found that MS symptoms in women do not increase the likelihood of complications or difficulties in pregnancy and birth and these women are just as likely to have normal pregnancies and births like any other woman in the general population.
However in the first 3 months after birth, a time when both babies and new mom are vulnerable, the relapse rates of MS symptoms in women increase.
Good planning with your partner, family and doctor or MS nurse can mean adequate support is available during this time; for example, your partner may take leave from work or a family member can stay with you whilst your partner is out. More frequent access to your doctor or MS nurse can also be arranged.
How does MS affect menopause?
Older women and younger women alike have questions about menopause and particularly how MS symptoms in women affect menopause.
Hot flushes, brittle bones, night sweats and tiredness are usually associated with menopause and women without MS can find this a difficult time in their lives to cope with; this can be the same for women with MS who already experience tiredness as part of MS.
There is ongoing research into whether menopause has a negative or positive impact on MS symptoms in women.
The good news is women with multiple sclerosis can use the range of hormone replacement therapies available on the market that are used to treat some of the symptoms of menopause.