32. My baby, MS and Me

There’s a section in the middle of my pregnancy notes entitled ‘Medical History’. They ask a whole manner of odd questions when you’re pregnant. The one that disturbed me most was ‘whether the father was a blood relative’. I wondered how many people actually answer ‘yes’ to that question?! To be honest, even if he was, I’m not sure I’d be telling anyone about it. But hey, who am I to judge.

The most interesting thing that I had to write in this section was about my MS. It seemed a bit tame in comparison. A bit mainstream. What type it is, how long I’ve had it, what medication I was taking …. and that’s the only place in the notes that it appears. Which is quite nice really. To be honest I don’t really know what I was expecting … the letters M and S stamped across the front (this isn’t just any MS … it’s Nicoletta’s MS) … a different coloured folder … some sort of symbol to make my notes stand out … but no, for once it isn’t just all about my MS. Instead it’s all about my baby. Which is as it should be I guess.

Infact MS isn’t playing much of a part in my pregnancy at all. My everyday symptoms (pins and needles mainly) have all but gone and have been replaced with chronic acid indigestion and incredibly painful boobs. When, at my appointments, I am asked how I am the inquiry is aimed at my growing bump and not at the funny grey patches on my MRI scan. The chatter at my yoga class is of pregnancy ailments and midwives and preparations … no one there even knows that I have MS.

Of course that isn’t to say that my MS has been completely forgotten (although with the improvement in symptoms and the sabatical from the bingo dabber it could easily have been).

It seems the most important issue that has arisen is the question of whether it is safe to have an epidural during labour. There is some research to suggest that having an epidural can worsen or speed up the progression of MS and, moreover, I have read that this can be more acute where MS symptoms manifest themselves in the legs. This was of particular interest to me as my MS began with numbness in my right leg and still lingers with pins and needles.

Every pregnant woman has a named Obstetrician on their notes although from what I can gather, all being well, many do not actually ever meet them. Because of my MS I have been to see my Obstetrician. We chatted about my MS and she too came to the conclusion that it did not present any cause for concern either during pregnancy or labour. She did, however, highlight the epidural issue and so referred me on to see an Anaesthetist.

I don’t know whether this is common to all patients, or whether the nature of my occupation sets off alarm bells and the flashing neon warning lights of potential litigation should something go wrong, but I often find it hard to get a straight answer on issues of a medical nature. I know that once armed with the facts and the statistics the choice is ultimately mine, but I’d appreciate the opinion of the medical practitioner concerned, their views, their guidance. Afterall they are the expert. And that’s why I have gone to see them. In the legal world in we call it ‘advice’. And as with all types of ‘advice’ whilst it’s up to the recipient whether or not they choose to accept the aforementioned advice it’s often a useful tool in their decision making process, especially where the advice-giver has some expertise in the area upon which they are advising …. Anyway ….

My appointment with the Anaesthetist was a little disappointing to be honest for similar reasons to those outlined above and I wasn’t much wiser when I came out than when I went in.

I have decided however, of my own volition I might add, to avoid an epidural if at all possible. Having spent the best part of 2 months unable to feel my right leg from the sole of my right foot right up to my lady bits and having seen the images from the MRI scan showing the lighter grey patch on my spinal cord which caused this, it seems that having a needle inserted into my spinal cord with the sole purpose of numbing my lower body is a very bad idea indeed. The potential drawbacks, the potential effects longterm, whilst all potential and unproven, would be so far reaching and so bad that they seem to me to be far worse than the short term pain during labour.

I guess it boils down to this: I feel I owe it most importantly to my baby and also to my husband not to do anything that may jeopardise my health in the future when they will both need me.

Afterall this is just the beginning. And my MS will just have to get used to the fact it ain’t the most important thing on my notes anymore.

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