Can Women With MS Have Babies?

A new U.S. study suggests that while pregnant women who have multiple sclerosis have a risk that is a bit higher for complications of pregnancy, their problems tend to be no different than those of healthy pregnant women. For this study, researchers analyzed a national database detailing 18.8 million U.S. deliveries between the years 2003-2006. The scientists focused on newborns born to women who suffer from MS and compared them to those of 10,000 healthy women.

Good News

According to the results of this study, 33% of the general population undergoes cesarean deliveries, while 42% of pregnant women with MS require C-sections. The gap is not as wide as experts had expected and that's a good thing. Dr. Eliza Chakravarty of Stanford University School of Medicine and her research team reported the results in the November 2009 online issue of Neurology. In the press release, Chakravarty said the results should reassure women with MS. "Women and their doctors have been uncertain about the effect of MS on pregnancy, and some women have chosen to delay or even avoid pregnancy due to the uncertainty. We found that women with MS did not have an increased risk of most pregnancy complications," said Chakravarty.

The babies of women with MS were found to have a greater incidence of IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) at a rate of 2.7% as compared to the general rate of 1.9%. IUGR is a condition in which the fetus weighs less than the tenth percentile for its gestational age. This condition is usually diagnosed by ultrasound before the baby is born.

Generally Reassuring

The team also checked out the statistics for pregnancy complications in women with epilepsy (4,730 pregnant women) and diabetes (187,239 pregnant women) which are disorders that are thought to increase the risk for specific complications of pregnancy. The women with epilepsy had an increased rate for cesarean delivery of 1.5 times the general rate. Diabetes mellitus, as distinguished from gestational diabetes, was found to increase the risk of all known adverse birth outcomes, according to the report.

The report stated, "Despite significant advances in management of these chronic diseases, many patients and physicians remain uncertain of the potential risks associated with pregnancy and delivery. Our results demonstrate that pregnancy outcomes for women with MS are generally reassuring."

An accompanying editorial by Dr. Gary Frankling of the University of Washington, and the University of British Columbia's Helen Tremlett expressed pleasure with the results of this research, terming the data, "critical information," for pregnant women and their doctors as well as for those women with epilepsy or MS who are contemplating pregnancy.

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