Thanks to all who submitted pregancy stories to InsideMS.
I was diagnosed in May of 1991 and had my baby in July 2000. I was 41 years old when Savannah was born. I guess I fall into the category of old, single, MS mothers. My mother was very happy to be a grandmother, but my MS doctors told me that if I'd asked them, which I didn't, they would not have recommended it. One neurologist who spoke to my MS support group said he would not say to any MS patient that they should not do what other people did. He was of the belief, as am I, that life must go on even in the face of disease and having children is part of living.
I was fine during the pregnancy. I even had more energy than I normally did. I have few severe flair ups and had none during the pregnancy. My doctor believes I have silent demylenation. The delivery was long and tiring. I tried for a natural childbirth and ended up with 30 hours of labor and a C-section. Since I'm not married, childcare falls to my mother and me. I wanted to have a second child until Savannah got to be two. Now I can't imagine doing it again. My fatigue was pretty bad before she was born and now it's much worse. I don't get the time I need to rest and nap and get my energy back up. I'm now on medication which I'd not been on before and I hope it is keeping my MS at bay (I never did have too many flair ups after I stopped working full time) because I want to be as healthy as I can be for as long as I can be for my daughter.
I didn't fall into a rapid decline after the birth, I believe, because of the nursing. There was certainly a severe hormone change immediately after the birth but nursing made that less, I think. Two different MS doctors told me to quit nursing and go on medication right after Savannah was born. I didn't follow that advice either. I knew even then that she might be my only child and this would be my only chance to do all the things a mother gets to do, like nursing.
Do I regret having my daughter? Not for one minute. My only fear is that she'll think she had something to do with making me more tired or causing more trouble with my MS. I never want her to feel that she's the cause of any problems I'm having. So far she'd oblivious to it all but I know my mother is worried. But I didn't feel I had a choice. I was getting older and if I wanted a family I had to get on with it. I had put off having a family since my early thirties when I was diagnosed. I wanted to see what MS would do to me before I changed my life style too much, so I put my adoption plans on hold.
As the years passed, I kept waiting to get worse and didn't. So when the unexpected happened, I was so happy about it. And now I can't imagine I lived that empty, childless life for so long. Savannah makes every day bright and happy even if I am too tired to get dressed. I wish I'd done it sooner.
—Lu Ann Curlee
I have a healthy son, Legend, who was born Sept 13, 2001. He is now 13 months old. I breast fed until he was 10.5 month old, and now he is drinking my huge supply of frozen breast milk. That is a story all of its own.
My doctor supported me from discussing having a child until present. He supported me when I wanted to breast-feed. My husband and I were featured on the Channel 10 (NBC) News health report in April 2001. They did a story on MS and having a baby. We were featured again this April as a follow-up. We did a lot of reading and learning about MS and having a baby before we made the decision to have a child. There is a great book, Multiple Sclerosis and Having a Baby, by Judy Graham.
Our pregnancy was pretty normal. I did have placenta previa, which cleared before birth. Apparently research shows that women with MS have a slightly higher risk of having placenta previa. We had a nice long labor without much pain. However, after 4.5 hours of pushing, the doctor said that the baby would not drop, so it was a C-section. I have not had any major flare-ups since birth.
My MS symptoms were in remission during my pregnancy. I almost felt "normal" again. As I started to wean Legend from breast-feeding, I noticed the symptoms returning. My doctor said that made sense, because my pregnancy hormones were returning to normal. I stopped taking all medications except Betaseron while we were attempting to get pregnant. Once I found out we were pregnant, I stopped taking all medications. I took no meds while breast-feeding. I have recently started taking my medications again.
Having a baby when you have MS is like having triplets for a person without MS. I have a very supportive family. My husband and parents are wonderful. Without them I could not be doing this. I have said being a Mom is more draining on me than being a rehab registered nurse working on the floor.
After having three uneventful and healthy pregnancies, the journey that began on my fourth pregnancy brought me to places I never thought I'd go emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Not knowing I had MS at this point, I conceived normally but was suddenly stricken with a severe kidney infection that wouldn't go away, followed by insatiable itching and numbness on one side of my abdomen. At first the doctors thought I was trying to contact shingles, but when I failed to produce a rash, fever, and other characteristics common to the virus, they told me that whatever it was, would go away soon.
Well, the symptoms didn't subside and I wasn't ok. The numbness and itching soon spread down my leg and eventually to my toes in both legs. I began falling down, unable to have normal sensations and having days of severe weakness. By this time I was experiencing sciatic nerve pain and attending physical therapy twice a week to alleviate the discomfort. My OB was puzzled and didn't know how to help me. Each visit I would explain my status, each time I was a little worse. He finally decided it was simply sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy.
My mother was concerned. Memories of an experience I had with optic neuritis eight years prior were haunting her, and wheels began to turn in our heads. I didn't have the capacity emotionally to bear the thought of the possibility of MS. My ophthalmologist had diagnosed the optic neuritis. I did not have insurance then, so he cancelled the MRI he had scheduled for me and excused the episode as a side effect of too much macrobid. I had been taking the antibiotic daily as a prophylactic dose during my third pregnancy for recurring UTI's.
I went to this particular OB one final time demanding answers and aggressive action. He knew I needed a specialist. I was 24 weeks along by the time I was referred to an Orthopedic Specialist and a Maternal/Fetal Medicine MD. The day after my thirtieth birthday, an MRI was ordered which confirmed that I had a herniated disc and two bulging discs that needed surgery if I was to have no permanent nerve damage. He gave me epidural cortisone shot and lots of pain pills to tide me over during the pregnancy.
When I asked for a nerve conduction test to monitor the damage done to the nerves, the orthopedic specialist was baffled by what he was finding. None of the nerves were responding consistently with the disc herniated. My mother was there and mentioned the optic neuritis and asked about MS. The results of this test were consistent with MS. He immediately knew I needed to see a neurologist.
The next day I saw Dr. Patrice Duvernay, a neurologist at the Salt Lake Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah. She ordered another MRI. This one showed severe transverse myelitis, (spinal cord inflammation). I think she knew it would end up being MS but seemed to want to spare me the devastation of dealing with a diagnosis at that time by counseling me to follow through with a healthy pregnancy and we'd do more testing at that point. She went on to explain that the treatment options available were contraindicated in pregnancy.
I was now seven months pregnant. I was so weak, experiencing severe pain, numbness from the waist down, unable to take the pain pills I needed or the IV steroids necessary to alleviate the inflammation. My heart was skipping beats, palpitating and pounding from the pain. The pregnancy continued a healthy one.
I went to physical therapy and traction in the pool daily to maintain my muscle strength and sustain my abilities. I was a wreck. The doctors hadn't ever seen such complexity in any mother-to-be and they were trying to get answers for me. The doctors spoke to one another often to relay messages and collaborate about my situation. They all had to work together. One surgeon asked me if I was suicidal and wouldn't blame me if I were. Another commented on my MRI's looking like those of a 70 year-old woman, saying "You are one unlucky girl!"
I wanted to be aggressive, I wasn't willing to just sit there and do nothing when my permanent disability was on the line. I asked for a brain scan. I had to know. The 6 lesions, along with my other findings, were a definite diagnosis of MS. This diagnosis finally came at eight months into the pregnancy.
I convinced the doctors to delivery me four weeks early. After contracting pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) I could bear it no more. I delivered a healthy 8 lb. 1 oz. baby boy named Simon. A true miracle and blessing in our lives. It's amazing to me to be able to take part to take part in creating something so perfect in the midst of my disability and disease. I was so relieved to have that part of my journey successful and over.
After being bed-ridden for six months during pregnancy with pain and weakness, I decided to have my tubes tied and then proceeded with the back surgery two weeks post-partum. The surgery was such a relief; my herniation pain was gone within a few weeks.
As for now, the transverse myelitis is slowly subsiding with residual effects. I am slowly finding a normalcy in my life. I have some permanent numbness and weakness in areas of my torso and feet. I have started Avonex to try to manage my MS after nursing my baby for four months.
I've heard a lot about the studies being done on estrogen and pregnancy helping those with MS and can't help but think that my pregnancy helped my transverse myelitis to not be as severe as it could have been if I was not pregnant. My neuro-surgeon said he's never seen anyone with the kind of spinal cord inflammation I have walked again.
Dr. Duvernay has been supportive in my decisions. She has been sensitive to my situation as a mother. I appreciated how she let me decide how aggressive to be with the test and medications. She was good to explain and research the risks and benefits of treatments during pregnancy and breastfeeding. She encouraged me to do right by my baby and yet remained strict as a physician managing my MS. That's a delicate balance.
I would tell anyone wondering if it's worth it, that even after all I went through, I can look at Simon and know that I am still able to be what I want to be and do what I want to do as a mother, a wife, and all that I encompass. I never could have done it without a good support system of family, friends, and church members helping with meals, cleaning, babysitting, shopping, driving me to doctor's visits, and encouragement. When the storm is over and all is quiet, I feel like I can conquer anything even with MS.
I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in August of 1998. I was 23 years old. I've been on drug therapy ever since then, and I'm happy to say that it has helped to slow down the progression of my disease.
My husband and I decided in early 2001 that we wanted to start trying for a baby. I met with my neurologist, and told her of my decision. She was not happy and not supportive at all. She told me that I would relapse during pregnancy, and I told her that I was willing to endure anything, because I desperately wanted a child. In April of 2001 I went off my medication, and on May 22nd, we found out we were pregnant!
My pregnancy was wonderful—no morning sickness! I was feeling great until 20 weeks, at which point I suffered a relapse. I developed severe tics in the left side of my face, and various other new symptoms (spastic muscle in my left thigh, numbness in my lips and tongue, etc). I put up with these annoying symptoms, because I knew it was all par for the course.
On February 2nd, 2002, Abigail Grace was born. She was 8lbs, 13 oz! Not a small child. Her birth was wonderful, but I felt awful for a few weeks afterward. My fatigue level was so high I was afraid I wouldn't be able to care for my baby. Luckily my husband let me sleep through the night, while he got up to feed her.
I am happy to say that I started my medication again 8 weeks postpartum, and have not had a relapse since. My baby is now 9 months old, and she's walking! Being off my medication for a year was difficult, but I would do it over 100 times again. Abigail is an absolute miracle, and I can't wait to have another!
Please share my story. I want women with MS to know that they can have healthy, beautiful babies!