Pregnancy-related issues in women with multiple sclerosis: an evidence-based review with practical recommendations

J Drug Assess. 2020 Jan 23;9(1):20-36. doi: 10.1080/21556660.2020.1721507. eCollection 2020.


Objective: To review the current evidence regarding pregnancy-related issues in multiple sclerosis (MS) and to provide recommendations specific for each of them. Research design and methods: A systematic review was performed based on a comprehensive literature search. Results: MS has no effect on fertility, pregnancy or fetal outcomes, and pregnancies do not affect the long-term disease course and accumulation of disability. There is a potential risk for relapse after use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists during assisted reproduction techniques. At short-term, pregnancy leads to a reduction of relapses during the third trimester, followed by an increased risk of relapses during the first three months postpartum. Pregnancies in MS are not per se high risk pregnancies, and MS does not influence the mode of delivery or anesthesia unless in the presence of significant disability. MRI is not contraindicated during pregnancy; however, gadolinium contrast media should be avoided whenever possible. It is safe to use pulse dose methylprednisolone infusions to manage acute disabling relapses during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, its use during the first trimester of pregnancy is still controversial. Women with MS should be encouraged to breastfeed with a possible favorable effect of exclusive breastfeeding. Disease-modifying drugs can be classified according to their potential for pregnancy-associated risk and impact on fetal outcome. Interferon beta (IFNβ) and glatiramer acetate (GA) may be continued until pregnancy is confirmed and, after consideration of the individual risk-benefit if continued, during pregnancy. The benefit of continuing natalizumab during the entire pregnancy may outweigh the risk of recurring disease activity, particularly in women with highly active MS. GA and IFNβ are considered safe during breastfeeding. The use of natalizumab during pregnancy or lactation requires monitoring of the newborn. Conclusions: This review provides current evidence and recommendations for counseling and management of women with MS preconception, during pregnancy and postpartum.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; breastfeeding; delivery; disease-modifying therapy; newborn; postpartum; pregnancy.