According to the World Health Organisation, multiple sclerosis (MS) is estimated to affect more than 1.8 million people worldwide, being most commonly prevalent in young people, especially in women.
In the years that we at IVF-Life have been involved in assisted reproduction, we have met many women who suffer from this condition and, therefore, we are aware of how necessary it is for those who are in the same situation to be aware of how multiple sclerosis and the desire to conceive are related.
What is multiple sclerosis and how does it manifest itself?
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological and autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, specifically the myelin sheaths responsible for protecting the nerves. This causes the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord to not function as they should, and a range of symptoms develop, varying significantly from person to person.
These may include fatigue, vision problems, numbness in the limbs, difficulty in coordination or movement, loss of balance, tremors, bladder and bowel discomfort, among others.
Today, experts agree that there is no specific cause for the onset of multiple sclerosis. However, it is believed that, on the one hand, various environmental factors play a role and, on the other hand, there is a genetic predisposition, although it should be noted that MS is not hereditary.
Although multiple sclerosis has no cure as such, there are indeed treatments that can alleviate the symptoms or make it a little easier to live with this disease.
Does multiple sclerosis affect fertility or pregnancy?
Contrary to what many people may think, having multiple sclerosis does not mean having difficulty conceiving. It is also not associated with a high incidence of miscarriage or problems in a newborn baby.
A woman with MS can become a mother in the same way as a woman without MS can, except in very severe cases. However, it is advisable to take into account some variables when it comes to carrying a child, always consulting a specialist who is aware of the patient’s medical history. Experts point out that it is important to plan for this
stage and to choose a ‘stable’ time, as certain medications prescribed to MS patients are not indicated for use in pregnant women.
It is also key to note that several studies have revealed over the last few years that MS flares are significantly reduced during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, and that they tend to increase 3 months after delivery.
When it is time to give birth, medical advice is also extremely important, as, if a woman with MS shows symptoms that the muscles involved in childbirth are involved, professionals may opt for a caesarean section.
Can women with multiple sclerosis undergo fertility treatment?
The fact that women with multiple sclerosis are not more likely to have fertility problems does not mean that there are no women with multiple sclerosis who suffer from said problems. They are recommended, as any other patient, to visit a fertility clinic if they have not achieved pregnancy after 6 months of trying through natural family planning.
A common concern for MS patients who need to undergo assisted reproductive treatment is the possibility of inflammatory activity right after treatment. Some literature has suggested that the occurrence of these flares is directly related to the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists during treatment, but scientific evidence on this issue is conflicting.
To clarify this doubt, we have turned to Dr. Manuel Izquierdo, Quality Director at IVF-Life Madrid and gynaecologist specialising in fertility, who firstly emphasises that scientific literature has likewise shown that switching from GnRH agonists to GnRH antagonists in ovarian stimulation protocols can reduce inflammatory activity in women with multiple sclerosis undergoing assisted reproduction techniques.
The professional from our centre also states that the majority of stimulation cycles for in vitro fertilisation treatments are based on an antagonist protocol, which also reduces the risk of the patient suffering from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
Women with multiple sclerosis need a holistic approach to their assisted reproductive treatment, taking into account all factors that may influence the process and their health status.
If you suffer from multiple sclerosis and the desire to start a family worries you, your maternity plans are not going as you expected or you have just been trying for more than a year without success, don’t hesitate to contact us. At IVF-Life we have everything you need for your life project to go ahead.
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