Why Vaginal Delivery Is the Best Option for Moms-to-be With MS
Should a woman with multiple sclerosis have a C-section? Find out when it’s the way to go for an MS patient.
Planning for labor and delivery can be complicated for women who have multiple sclerosis. But the bottom line is the same for all women: A vaginal delivery is usually best.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Depending on the status of your MS, you may need to consult with multiple doctors about how best to bring baby into the world.
However, as with any mother-to-be, a vaginal birth is preferred because it means less trauma for the momma. It also offers a quicker recovery time than a cesarean section.
Not only is it “nature’s way,” but it also means less risk of relapse for MS sufferers, says OB/GYN Jonathan Emery, MD.
“Assuming their MS is under control, we want to have vaginal delivery,” Dr. Emery says. “You think about the stress of surgery itself. Some people don’t think of a C-section as surgery, but it’s a major surgery, so for a person with MS, a C-section can have ramifications for their symptoms.”
Some studies show that women with MS may be more likely to have a cesarean section than other women. The reasons aren’t clear, but it may reflect a delay in labor in women with muscular weakness. It also may reflect heightened concerns by medical professionals when caring for someone with MS.
However, there is no evidence that the procedure will lead to relapse or progression of the disease, most experts say.
In Dr. Emery’s experience, few patients with MS require a C-section because of their illness.
He notes that the reasons for surgery are the same for these women as for healthy mothers: If difficulties are encountered by mother or baby during labor, sometimes a C-section is necessary.
For women with MS, Dr. Emery would recommend surgery if a flare-up has weakened a woman to the point that she doesn’t have the strength or movement capability to push during a vaginal birth.
That assessment and decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, however.
“That would be a discussion between the patient and her physician,” he says. “It’s very individual.”
Despite past notions, all forms of anesthesia are considered safe for women with MS and epidurals don’t affect the likelihood of post-partum relapse.
Expectant mom Dion W. of Northeast Ohio is determined to go without MS medications for as long as possible. She’s not opposed to anesthesia or an epidural, however. She met with an anesthesiologist during her labor and delivery tour at Hillcrest Hospital.
She’s planning for a vaginal birth, but says she’s not worried about having a C-section, if necessary.
“I just want the baby to be healthy,” she says.
The countdown is on for Dion who is to have her child at Hillcrest in early June.
As the day approaches, she’s not leaving anything to chance.
In a 2012 trip to the hospital for a multiple sclerosis relapse, she found she didn’t have all the bases quite covered.
“Last time I went to the hospital, my wonderful husband packed the bare necessities,” she says. “I’m going to pack my own bag this time.”
To hear more of Dion’s story, please go to this post.