Parkinson's disease happens to only 5% of women before the age of 40, with less than 400 women who are younger than 50 years old diagnosed with the disease in the United States. This is why pregnancy in patients with Parkinson's Disease is uncommon and a rare occurrence.
There have been previous reports (based on retrospective analysis) that show how pregnancy may have a slightly dangerous effect on those with the disease. But there are times when women with Parkinson's disease do become pregnant and wonder about what it can do to their (and the child's) health. Read on to learn more about the effects of pregnancy in Parkinson's disease.
Studies on Parkinson's and Pregnancy
Studies show that half of the women who have Parkinson's disease who become pregnant will experience their symptoms worsening during pregnancy. This study appears in the online edition of Parkinsonism and Related Disorders from May 11.
Based on limited data, levodopa medication can help and are safe for both mother and child. The disease also doesn't increase any risk of birth complications and defects, though we will be discussing the details in the next sections.
Mara Seier, M.D., and Amie Hiller, M.S. searched the English language medical literature for cases of pregnancy with Parkinson's disease. The data came from the Portland, OR, VA Medical Center, collecting 28 papers that were published between the years 1985 and 2016. Based on the published papers, they have found reports of 74 live births from women with Parkinson's Disease who were between the ages of 23 to 46 years old. This was out of the 79 cases, with four of the cases ending up with negative results.
Results of the Study
Here are the results that were analyzed and collected based on the 74 live births:
- Half of the women with Parkinson's Disease have experienced their symptoms worsening during pregnancy. The other half have experienced no change or improvement of symptoms.
- Medication for the disease helped reduce the worsening of symptoms for only one-third of the women who took them.
- The disease did not increase any risk of complications when giving birth, nor is there an increase or decrease in chances of birth defects in the baby.
- Of all the Parkinson's medications, the most data on medicine that has been seen was on levodopa. The medication has enough data to recommend taking in for better health, though there is not enough evidence to prove that it's safe to use. The dosage of this medication ranges from 100 to 2,500mg per day.
- Regardless of whether they have Parkinson's disease or not, women who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant should not take amantadine. There has been strong evidence of poor fetal outcomes by taking this medicine.
- 64% of women who were treated with medications to treat Parkinson's disease have reported improvement and stability while pregnant, as compared to the 33% of women who were not prescribed any medication.
- There is not enough information regarding COMT inhibitors or MAO-B inhibitors to comment on the safety of using it for pregnant women with Parkinson's disease.
- Breastfeeding while taking medication to treat Parkinson's disease isn't advised, as there is little information regarding the secretion of the drugs in breast milk.
So What Exactly Does This All Prove?
While pregnancy is uncommon in those with Parkinson's disease, neurologists should still be prepared to treat women who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant. There is limited evidence that shows how levodopa can be taken for Parkinson's Disease, to lessen the worsening of symptoms throughout their pregnancy. BUT, there is still research that needs to be done on its safety for both mother and child.
The worsening of the symptoms from the disease on pregnant women can be possibly explained from the progression of the disease, changed of how the medication is metabolized during pregnancy, the stress one feels, or due to the lack of intake of levodopa.
The symptoms include the usual pregnancy symptoms women will experience, though more profound in women with Parkinson's diseases. The changes would include the change in body shape, slowing down in movement, morning sickness or nausea, tiredness, and even disturbed sleep. Common symptoms include slowness of movement, frequent urination, constipation, and morning sickness, which is evident in pregnant women with Parkinson's disease. But there are certain medications your doctor can prescribe in order to ease the discomfort.
Another report has shown that worsening of symptoms occurred at 15 months postpartum, which may result in proving that there is a long-term negative impact of childbirth on the course of the illness. Because of this report, it will assist physicians in counseling patients who are currently considering pregnancy. It can also help guide medical professionals on what they can do to help women who have just given birth as well.
The authors of this study caution others, as the recommendations is only based on a small number of cases. No clinical trials have been made, meaning pregnant women and medical professionals must rely on available data and using common sense. Medication that holds little benefits or effects should be avoided, while it is encouraged to do therapy for motor symptoms and take in the proper amount of levodopa.
Through pregnancy is a rare occurrence, younger women with the disease still have a possibility of becoming pregnant. But there are still no exact figures or statistics that can prove this. And fortunately, despite the symptoms, the majority of the cases written regarding pregnancy and Parkinson's disease resulted in successful and full-term delivery of healthy babies.
More information and studies need to be done because of the limitation of data. The researchers are aiming to develop a registry to collect date from pregnant women with Parkinson's Disease to help in developing guidelines in management and treatment. Hopefully, with further studies and research, you or your loved one will be able to go through a healthy pregnancy with minimal symptoms or difficulties.
Unfortunately, because of the rare occurrences of pregnancy in Parkinson's disease due to the population of women who have it (and their age bracket), the information and knowledge needed to treat and counsel women of childbearing age with the disease are still lacking. But with more discoveries and studies made each day, it is slowly progressing and doctors are still able to guide their patients through the pregnancy.
So if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, then it's best to consult your doctor for him to prescribe and help you throughout the process. You will need to take extra caution and ensure that you have a healthy diet with supervision from medical professionals to ensure a hassle-free pregnancy and delivery. As long as you take the medicine prescribed from your doctor and continue to live safely and with less stress from external factors, then you will be able to successfully deliver and continue your life as a parent with Parkinson's disease.
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