Women diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) may still possess normal fertility levels. However, if it does cause issues with fertility there are infertility treatment methods that women can employ to help improve their chances of conception.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the body’s attacking specific nerves that comprise the central nervous system (brain and spinal column). During active cases of the malady, the myelin (protective coverings) of brain and spinal nerves is attacked and damaged, which inhibits the brain’s ability to effectively communicate with other bodily regions.
As nerve damage progresses, afflicted persons often experience a host of physical manifestations such as weakness, numbness or even paralysis in the arms or legs, bodily tremors, pain in impacted areas, mobility challenges, coordination problems, fatigue, speech impediments, vision disturbances and urinary or bowel issues.
The disease typically worsens over time. That said, the ailment also usually goes through spurts and remissions. Most individuals with the illness are diagnosed between ages 20 and 50. Currently, there is no known cure; however, specific treatments can prolong one’s lifespan and control the associated symptoms.
The Correlation between MS and Fertility
Scientific research suggests that MS does not exert a profound effect on a woman’s ability to conceive. However, the disease may precipitate other potential health issues that could inhibit successful conception.
The added weight women gain during pregnancy could exacerbate any associated nerve pain and balance issues precipitated by active MS. Additionally, as the fetus grows, it may place added strain on the womb. This strain might worsen bowel or bladder control problems for women affected by that particular MS manifestation. Furthermore, in certain cases, MS can affect women’s sexual function, leading to performance issues or decreased libido (sex drive) as a result.
It should be noted, however, that medications used to treat MS symptoms could affect pregnancy and might contribute to infertility. Therefore, MS sufferers who are planning to conceive should disclose every medication they are prescribed to the family doctor or obstetrician prior to becoming pregnant.
Steps Affected Women Can Employ to Overcome These Challenges
There are several steps that MS patients with any of the preceding risk factors can take to better their chances of conceiving and undergoing a safe pregnancy:
- Monitor Medications – As mentioned, when a woman with MS plans to conceive, the task of disclosing all of the prescribed and over-the-counter medications she regularly uses is arguably the most important safeguard. Certain drugs (such as immunosuppressing preparations often prescribed for MS patients) could threaten the conception process. Should one’s medical team identify any potentially dangerous medication, the drug might be changed or eliminated during pregnancy.
- Receive Support for Sexual Performance Issues – Should MS precipitate sexual performance problems, afflicted women could receive counseling to overcome the challenge. If pain or other issues cause sexual problems, alleviating these factors might help the MS patient conquer them.
- Practice a Healthy Lifestyle – All women, but particularly those with MS, can enhance their chances of conception and successful, uncomplicated pregnancies by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. This goal can be met by consuming a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, refraining from alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, obtaining adequate rest, remaining hydrated and getting exercise whenever possible.
MS and Infertility Treatments
Though MS itself typically does not precipitate the onset of infertility, women with the illness may be afflicted with underlying ailments that impact their ability to conceive. In such instances, they might explore various infertility treatment options.
Among the more common and somewhat effective infertility remedies employed are assisted reproductive technologies (ART), which include artificial actions such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Many medical researchers and healthcare professionals caution women with MS that undergoing such therapies might exacerbate their symptoms. Numerous studies have been conducted that suggest ART worsens occurrences of MS. Therefore, the prevailing advice in the medical community is that MS patients consider alternative and natural forms of infertility treatment.