MS and Fertility: Conflicts of the Heart and Mind
“Rock bottom is the end of what wasn’t true enough. Begin again and build something Truer.” — Glennon Doyle
The first of our four pregnancy losses were our twin daughters in 2013, which happened nearly halfway through my pregnancy. Three years later, the first symptoms appeared that would eventually would be diagnosed as relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
After my diagnosis, time simply stopped. Our lives were put on hold, and this included starting a family. As it turned out, this was just the beginning of our long battle with MS and fertility.
The effects of relapsing-remitting MS, which I refer to in my columns as “Hurricane MS” due to the damage it has caused, complicated fertility matters for me. I have had to agonize over questions like, “Does my ability to have children necessarily mean I should?” And, “Is having children worth the potential consequences it might have on my physical and mental health?”
After much time and reflection, my husband and I are ready to have children. We have two options: in vitro fertilization (IVF) or adoption.
After several years of trying to conceive, and then having painful tests, we were finally referred to a fertility clinic, where we were offered a single round of IVF through the U.K.’s National Health Service. If this is unsuccessful, adoption would be the next option.
Currently, my head is leaning toward adoption, which I believe would be the best option for my health. However, my heart isn’t yet ready to give up on carrying the baby I’ve wished for ever since I can remember.
I was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes fluctuations in my hormone levels, and unpredictable, painful, and heavy periods. This condition affects my fertility. I take medication to manage it, although most of the time, it feels like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
I also must consider the heart-rending reality that there is a long waiting list — perhaps over a year — to receive IVF. And after the wait, there is still only about a 32% chance the procedure will be successful for women my age. Again, I only have one shot for this to work, and my scientific mind doesn’t like those odds.
My heart, however, disagrees. I have hope and faith in my heart that it will work.
If I were to become pregnant, I would face an increased risk of an MS relapse after giving birth. I also would have to stop taking my fatigue medication, modafinil. While I have previously written about the effect fatigue has on my life, I would do anything for a baby, including living with increased fatigue for a while.
Most of the time these days, my head tells me I’ve matured enough to prioritize my health over a longing to feel a child kicking inside of me, as I once did with my girls. But I still feel the pull of the songbird in my heart that’s been singing since my body’s clock began ticking as a teenager.
This is now our ongoing battle, after I clawed my way back from the ashes left by my “Hurricane MS.” We don’t yet have the answers, but I have no doubt this warrioress of MS will find a way to rise again.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.