How MS Affects Pregnancy and Fertility

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Dana Cooper, M.D.
April 10, 2023

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is at least two to three times more common in women than it is in men, and it’s commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 50. This means that many people are dealing with an MS diagnosis during their childbearing years and may wonder how this unpredictable neurological condition can affect their family planning. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about how MS affects fertility, pregnancy, and reproductive health.

Does MS make it difficult to get pregnant?

Most people with MS don’t have any more difficulty than non-MS patients with becoming pregnant. It’s been estimated that about 10% of people with MS do experience fertility challenges, but that’s similar to the rate of the general population. And fertility treatments, especially in vitro fertilization (IVF), can be a helpful option for some people who are having trouble conceiving. IVF is estimated to be successful in up to 39% of women under age 35 who have MS, according to research.

Some research suggests that women who have MS and use fertility treatment may experience an increased risk of relapse, especially in the three months after an unsuccessful IVF attempt. This is thought to be related to the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists in fertility treatment, which can promote inflammation in the body. But researchers aren’t certain of that, theorizing that the increased relapse rate could instead be due to temporarily discontinuing disease-modifying treatment or increased stress related to fertility treatments.