Janice, pregnant with son Matthew
Janice Dean has a pretty uncommon job -- she's a weather forecaster with the Fox News Channel. She's also a new mama living with MS (Multiple Sclerosis.) I spoke with her about what it was like trying to conceive and then being pregnant with MS, and what she had to say was pretty extraordinary -- and encouraging.
Here's her story.
Janice Dean on Pregnancy and MS
First, congratulations on Matthew! How old is he now?
He’s about six weeks. He’s healthy, wonderful, and amazing.
Was it difficult to get pregnant with MS?
No, it didn’t affect
things at all. We were like, OK, we’ll see what happens – we weren’t
doing the pregnancy Olympics, taking my temperature and charting and everything. We said if it happens, it happens. And it didn’t take us long.
The only change I had to make was to stop taking the medication I take for MS. There’s no cure for the disease, but they’re getting better at coming up with drugs that will treat or suppress it.
How did your doctors feel about you stopping your medication and trying to get pregnant?
My doctor felt good about taking me off the meds. Pregnancy actually suppresses MS – there’s something your body does while pregnant to stave off new symptoms of the disease, that's very common among women with MS.
My doctor recommended getting pregnant for that reason. They don't really know why, but one theory is that pregnancy hormones may dampen the activity of the immune system. Doctors often encourage women to get pregnant. It's the same with breastfeeding -- symptoms tend to be suppressed.
Is it possible that your son could have MS? Was that a concern?
I did some research and reading about this. There's a very small risk that my son would have it. Boys have less of a risk than girls, but a very small chance overall.
Janice, on the job
Janice, on the job
I had a pretty easy pregnancy – the ninth month was the hardest. I’m on my feet at work and it was a joke that I was covering more and more of the weather map! I felt better than I had in a long time -- I felt like superwoman.
When did you realize your symptoms were gone?
It was just a general feeling of “I feel better.” The thing that reminds me more than anything else that I have MS is the medication I have to take, so stopping it was great, and still being off of it [while breastfeeding] is great.
How did it feel emotionally to get a break from your MS symptoms?
I can’t even describe it – it’s like there was never anything wrong with me. I felt like my old self, pre-diagnosis. I believe my body was focused on protecting the baby – it was mind over matter.
Did you have any different labor and delivery issues than someone without MS?
No, the doctors knew I had MS but I wasn’t treated any differently. I had a C-section because Matthew was breech, and had been for months. So I didn’t go through the labor and delivery aspect. I knew the date and time of my delivery and that was helpful in terms of the stress of it, I think.
Everything went off without a hitch and I’m healing very well. Every day is easier.
What advice do you have for moms with MS who would like to get pregnant?
I want to inspire people to know you may have challenges but you can have a normal life -- you can’t let the disease rule you. You need a good support system and a good doctor, but it can’t let you stop your life.
I appreciate my son even more because of this. You have to live for today. Don’t let a disease stop you in your tracks.
How are things now that the baby is here?
I haven't had any symptoms since having the baby. My doctor wants to see me once I stop breastfeeding – for a new checkup and MRI -- and I'm nervous about that.
But I’m lucky. I can function fairly normally. I feel optimistic – the drugs that are out there are better and better able to suppress the disease. I’m hopeful we’ll see a cure in my lifetime.
I know it’s early to say since your baby is so young, but do you think you’ll consider getting pregnant again?
I look at him and he’s such a miracle – of course I’d do it again. I'm 38 but, listen, if I were younger I’d have had ten! If we do it again, it will be soon.
To keep up with Janice, and to see cute pics of Matthew, check out her blog.
Do you know a mom living with MS? Did her symptoms also subside while pregnant?