Multiple sclerosis (MS), the most common acquired neurological disorder of young adults, often strikes young women in their childbearing years. Despite the overlap of MS onset with the childbearing years of women, little is known about how women with MS make decisions about pregnancy and childbearing. In an effort to understand the process of decision making in these women, an exploratory descriptive qualitative study was undertaken; 15 pregnant women with MS were interviewed about their decisions to become pregnant and the factors that entered into their decision-making processes. Content analysis was used to identify and describe the fears and concerns of women with MS around the process of making decisions and about how the presence of MS had influenced that process. The unpredictability of MS and the effect that pregnancy might have on MS was a strong theme that emerged from the analysis. Although participants in this study had proceeded to become pregnant despite their fears related to the effect of pregnancy on the course of their MS, they continued to perceive their decision as risky. The diagnosis of MS affected their previous plans for number of children as well as spacing of pregnancies.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to: Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD RN FAAN, Villanova University College of Nursing, 800 Lancaster, Avenue, Villanova, PA 19085. She is an associate professor at the Villanova University College of Nursing and project director for the Health Promotion for Women with Disabilities Project.
© 2002 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses