Pregnancy and MS: The Worry of Passing It to Your Child

Odds are good that your child will not have the disease

Dion W pregnant

It’s a fact that multiple sclerosis has some genetic features, meaning that if you have it, there’s a small chance you’ll pass it on to your children.

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Statistics show that your kids have a 3 to 5 percent lifetime chance of developing MS.

But don’t overlook the upside to that statistic. There’s about a 96 percent chance that your children won’t develop the disease. Put another way, odds are 24 to 1 against it.

“There may be a higher risk if the mom has MS than if the dad does,” says neurologist Mary R. Rensel, MD, noting that it may have to do with sharing cells. “We tell them the risk is fairly low.”

Reducing the risk

While you can’t control your family history, Dr. Rensel says there are factors you can control to help reduce the risk that your children will have the illness:

  • Make sure you eat a healthy diet.
  • Pay special attention to Vitamin D levels.
  • Keep in mind where the child is raised.

“If they’re closer to the equator, there is less of a risk,” she says. “If you’re up in Canada or around the Great Lakes, you have a higher risk of having MS. It’s higher in the higher latitudes of the globe.”

She advises pregnant MS patients to talk to their pediatricians about vitamin supplementation for their children, especially Vitamin D.

“At least in the Cleveland, Ohio, area you can’t get adequate Vitamin D levels from the sun,” she says. “So you have to take a supplement.”

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A mother’s worry

Dion W., now 35, of Northeast Ohio, has had MS since 1999. She is due to deliver her first child in early June at Hillcrest Hospital.

She’s been off her MS medications throughout the pregnancy, so that’s not a worry. What has her a bit fearful is the fact that she’s having a girl.

“MS is more frequently diagnosed in women than men, so now that I know I’m having a girl, I am concerned, because you don’t know,” Dion says. “If I was having a boy, the chances of him getting MS are very, very low.”

Females are twice as likely as males to develop MS, Dr. Rensel says. She reassures moms, though, that the percentage is still small, regardless of gender.

A mother’s hope

Dion acknowledges that there’s not much to do but wait and hope for an early diagnosis — if it happens — to give her child the best fighting chance against the disease.

“Because I was diagnosed early, I could get on medication, so we could slow down the progression of the MS,” she says.

Although MS occurs most often in adults, estimates suggest that up to 10,000 children in the United States have the illness. Another 10,000 to 15,000 children have experienced at least one MS-like symptom suggestive of MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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Studies suggest that 2 to 5 percent of all people with MS have a history of symptom onset before age 18.

To hear more of Dion’s story, please go to this post.


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