By Alene Dover
Did you know that you can be at an increased risk of a relapse after you deliver a baby?
This was the message that I heard as I was trying to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother.
It didn’t help that I was 40 years old at the time, and already felt that I had age stacked against me. Now, I had to add on the risk that MS could cause to my health postpartum.
I needed to understand and gather the facts.
Was this in fact true?
If so, was there anything that I could do to reduce my risk of a postpartum flare?
And once I had a confirmed pregnancy, this quest for the truth became deeply personal.
I started with my most trusted resources – my neurologist.
Not only is she highly trained and stays on top of all the latest research, but she also knows me and my body.
I was relieved when she said that the risk of a postpartum relapse had more to do with my risk of a relapse pre-pregnancy. If I was at a high risk of a flare before I got pregnant, then, yes, I could likely experience a flare after delivering my baby.
However, if my disease activity was stable for at least six months prior to conception, that was a valuable indicator that I wasn’t as likely to experience a postpartum flare.
This was further motivation for me to best manage my diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS.
Thankfully, I have done a lot with diet and lifestyle to manage MS. As a result of this work and my doctor’s recommendations, I’ve had five years of stabilization. The odds were in my favor.
That said, I’m not a gambling girl.
What else could I do?
My neurologist shared that exclusive breastfeeding can further reduce my risk of a postpartum flare. Breastfeeding is a personal decision that each new mom can decide if it’s the right decision for her and her family, but certainly knowing this big perk that it offers is encouraging for us new moms in the MS community.
Beyond this valuable information from my neurologist, I also chose to prioritize three other factors that I attribute to helping me to managing MS.
During my initial bloodwork, my vitamin D levels were low, so I chose to supplement with the guidance of my doctor and get outside as much as possible during pregnancy.
If I wasn’t motivated enough by the fact that my body was creating a new life, I was motivated to keep my body healthy so I could be an active mom once she arrives.
With all the preparations and anticipation, I had to be extremely intentional with managing stress. Stress doesn’t do our body – especially MS – any favors. So, gave myself grace during pregnancy, practiced yoga and mindful breathing.