Many of my patients with multiple sclerosis ask me what the chances are of passing multiple sclerosis onto their children. I usually give them a two part answer:
1. The incidence of MS in the general population is about 1 in 10,000 (0.01%). The incidence between first-degree relatives (parent-child or non-twin sibling-sibling relations) where one of the relatives has MS, is around 3 in 100 (3%).
2. Since the risk is about 3 in 100 that a parent might pass on genes to their kids that MIGHT lead to MS, the chance that your kids get multiple sclerosis is still low. What I recommend to my patients is:
“Don’t have more than 15 kids.”
Next, even if they do get MS, there are going to be a whole bunch of ways to treat it. Let’s say you have a kid now. Chances are she probably wouldn’t start having symptoms of multiple sclerosis until she was in her twenties (let’s say 25). The first medication for multiple sclerosis came out in 1993 – 23 years ago. We currently have 9 disease modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis. At this rate we should have at least 18 drugs by the time your child gets multiple sclerosis and maybe even have a cure.
Moreover, a lot of computing power goes into designing many of the drugs that are used today. In 1993, the fastest computer processing speed was around 10 billion instructions per second. As of 2014, the fastest recorded speed was 10 quadrillion instructions per second. That second number is, like, a lot faster than the first number so it must mean a lot more drugs can be discovered over the next 25 years than were discovered in the last 23 years.
I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure.
Regardless, I believe the people who have the biggest to lose are the children of MSers who don’t get born because their folks were too worried that they might get multiple sclerosis. I have two children, Abby and Vincent. I asked my kids if they thought I shouldn’t have had them since they had a higher risk of getting multiple sclerosis. They responded just as I had anticipated. My son looked up at me from his video game and said “What?” while my daughter just stared at me and then walked away. I’m very proud of my children. My daughter will be starting college next year to become an engineer and my son is 15 years old, way taller than me and can throw a 73 mile an hour fast ball. If my wife and I did not have our children because we were afraid that they might get multiple sclerosis these are some things that might have happened:
– My wife and I would grow old and start to get sick of staring at each other. The acrimony of never having had kids would continue to increase and cause our relationship to become grotesquely hollow and warped, much like Donald Trump’s hair.
– The plumbing system for the Mars One Human Settlement Program, that would have established the first human settlement on Mars, fails because the “Abby Mac Human Groin Vacuum” device never gets invented and the human race is wiped out because the Earth’s temperature continues to rise and everyone drowns.
– The Yankees fail to win the 2031 World Series because their pitching staff never found the one reliable pitcher needed to shut down the fantastic new expansion team, the Idaho Potatoes. Because of this, everyone in New York falls into a deep depression, no one goes to work, the US economy collapses, China starts moving in, everyone except Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and that guy from those “Harold and Kumar” movies gets thrown out of their houses, there is mass hysteria, cities around the world are burned to the ground, the Earth’s temperature rises even faster and everyone drowns.
All because I never had kids…
The point is – this is your life. Neither you nor anyone else knows what tomorrow has to offer. So if you want to have kids, have kids. Even if there is a greater chance that our kids might get multiple sclerosis, it doesn’t mean that they will. My children are two of the greatest parts of my life (the other two are my wife, Lauren, and that new candy bar that has the rice-crispies along with caramel and peanuts in it). Let your healthcare and support teams know that you want to have children. Then make a plan about how your multiple sclerosis will be handled while going through the amazing journey of pregnancy and childbirth.
And when the time comes, I’m sure your partner will demonstrate support by reassuring you that, no matter how long your labor goes on for, he or she will be in the next room, on the couch, making sure that the television still works.