Pregnancy and Family Planning in Multiple Sclerosis

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2019 Jun;25(3):773-792. doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000000745.


Purpose of review: This article provides practical guidance on successful management of women with multiple sclerosis (MS) through pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Recent findings: Recent studies indicate that most women diagnosed with MS today can have children, breast-feed, and resume beta interferons or glatiramer acetate per their preferences without incurring an increased risk of relapses during the postpartum period. More than 40% of women with mild MS do not require any treatment before conception or in the postpartum period. Women with highly active MS can now become well-controlled before, throughout, and after pregnancy via highly effective treatments. Unfortunately, pregnancy does not protect against relapses following the cessation of fingolimod or natalizumab, and some women experience severe rebound relapses during pregnancy. Accidental first-trimester exposure to teriflunomide or fingolimod increases the risk of fetal harm.

Summary: Most women with MS can have normal pregnancies and breast-feed without incurring harm. Clinicians should avoid prescribing medications with known teratogenic potential (teriflunomide, fingolimod), known risk of severe rebound relapses (fingolimod, natalizumab), or unclear but plausible risks (dimethyl fumarate, alemtuzumab) to women of childbearing age who desire pregnancy or are not on reliable birth control. If a treatment needs to be resumed during breast-feeding, clinicians should opt for glatiramer acetate, interferon beta, natalizumab, or rituximab/ocrelizumab, as biologically plausible risks to the infant are exceedingly low.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding* / trends
  • Family Planning Services / trends
  • Female
  • Glatiramer Acetate / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / administration & dosage*
  • Interferon-beta / administration & dosage
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy
  • Natalizumab / administration & dosage
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Young Adult


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Natalizumab
  • Glatiramer Acetate
  • Interferon-beta