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The motherhood decision (the choice to forgo, start, or enlarge a family-whether by adoption or by pregnancy) is one of the most important that a woman ever makes. When the woman has MS, that decision becomes more complicated.
I have had multiple sclerosis since 1987. The motherhood decision was so difficult for me that I ended up spending several years in graduate school conducting research on the subject. The results of my study were published in a special, MS-focused issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation ["Themes arising in the motherhood decision for women with multiple sclerosis: an exploratory study," 12 (1999), 93-102]. InsideMS asked me to summarize my findings here, and I hope that the discussion will be helpful to any reader who is currently struggling with these questions. I wish you all the best, whatever you decide.
We are more like
other women than not
For example, every woman thought about how having a child would affect her life's work, be it inside or outside the home. Every woman with a partner considered that partner's role in parenting a child. Everyone thought about the demands and responsibilities that motherhood imposes and about the people and organizations that could help. Almost everyone in this study expressed concerns about financial resources, justice, equity, stress, and burn-out.
What MS added
One important concern that might arise in the motherhood decision of a woman with MS is the question of whether she risks passing the disease on to her child (see "Hot Button Issues"). This did not happen in my study, possibly because the women in my sample were well educated about the disease and probably knew that the risk is low.
Creating a climate
For some people, life without children is a viable choice that should be respected—not condemned or pitied.
For others, life without children is literally unlivable. Can support be found to make parenthood possible for each man or woman who desires it regardless of any potentially disabling condition that person may have?
|Mary Elizabeth McNary's story of her own pregnancy and its outcome is the "Surprise! Surprise!" article of this brochure.|
|Last updated May 2006|