To empower and support prospective mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS), MyHealthTeams — a free social network for people with chronic medical conditions — and pharmaceutical EMD Serono have launched the online Family Planning Resource Center.
The new center operates within the network’s MyMSTeam, and is sponsored in part by EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA in the U.S. and Canada. It provides family planning information and resources for before, during, and after pregnancy.
“Being proactive and planning ahead is so important for women living with MS and thinking about having a baby,” Terrie Livingston, head of patient and payor solutions at EMD Serono, said in a press release. “Making it easy to find reliable, actionable information is critical to helping people make the decisions that are right — for them, their baby, and their family.”
An independent startup with more than 2 million members, MyHealthTeams has created social networks, including MyMSTeam, for 34 chronic condition communities in 13 countries.
“More people than ever before are having babies following diagnosis with MS, but they have a growing list of questions about how to navigate the associated challenges,” said Mary Ray, MyHealthTeams cofounder and chief operating officer. “The MS & Family Planning Resource Center arms MyMSTeam members with information to effectively talk with their doctors about planning for and managing pregnancy.”
The center’s site features informational posts, including “Thinking About Starting a Family While Living With Multiple Sclerosis?” The article includes topics such as the importance of early planning, MS treatments and pregnancy, conception, sexual dysfunction, MS relapses during and after pregnancy, and steps to take before pregnancy to improve overall health.
Another article emphasizes the importance of informing healthcare professionals — early — of conception plans, and includes a downloadable guide to take to doctor visits during planning and pregnancy, and after giving birth. The guide’s questions for physicians include queries about pre-pregnancy medicines, in-vitro fertilization, the affect of mobility issues on vaginal birth, and breast feeding, for members to use as applicable.
One post seeks to debunk “common myths” associated with MS and pregnancy — that women with MS cannot and should not become pregnant, that pregnancy causes MS symptoms to stop, that women and men who are trying to conceive cannot take MS treatments, that MS will cause pregnancy and birth complications, that patients won’t experience relapses during or after pregnancy, and that patients’ babies will likely inherit MS.
There also is an article about what to expect during pregnancy and after delivery, and what steps to take to best prepare. For example, women who have trouble walking may encounter more problems during late pregnancy as their center of gravity shifts. These women are advised to discuss with their physician whether assistive devices such as a walker or wheelchair could be helpful.
According to the article, women with MS may have lower concentrations of vitamin D during and after pregnancy. Given that, patients are advised to speak with their physician about being evaluated and, if necessary, treated for vitamin deficiency before becoming pregnant.