Myasthenia gravis affects both men and women and occurs across all racial and ethnic groups. It most commonly impacts young adult women (under 40) and older men (over 60), but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Myasthenia gravis is not inherited nor is it contagious. Occasionally, the disease may occur in more than one member of the same family.
Although myasthenia gravis is rarely seen in infants, the fetus may acquire antibodies from a mother affected with myasthenia gravis—a condition called neonatal myasthenia. Generally, neonatal myasthenia gravis is temporary and the child's symptoms usually disappear within two to three months after birth. Rarely, children of a healthy mother may develop congenital myasthenia. This is not an autoimmune disorder and can cause similar symptoms to myasthenia gravis.
Whether a parent, a professional or a young adult with MG, we have resources to help you navigate situations at home or in the workplace, along with daily tips to help you live your best life with MG.
Becoming a Mother with MG
If you have myasthenia gravis (MG) and are considering pregnancy, make sure to discuss your plans with your MG health expert and your gynecologist/ obstetrician well in advance. This will ensure adequate time for you and your provider to adjust your MG treatment plan, allowing for the best outcomes and minimizing risks to you and your baby. The impact on your own health when adjusting your treatment plan for pregnancy is also an important consideration. A support system is very important throughout this process; a spouse, a parent, a sibling or a friend can help you navigate this with your healthcare team. The support system will also prove a great help post-baby, making sure that you get rest and nutritious foods while caring for a new child.
Treatment of MG during pregnancy tends to be similar to treatment for non-pregnant individuals with MG. For those who are managing and controlling their MG well, they tend to remain stable throughout their pregnancy. Generally, the “rule of thirds” applies; a third of people improve, a third remain stable and a third experience worsening of symptoms. If MG symptoms do worsen, it is more likely to occur in the postpartum weeks, after the delivery of your baby.
As everyone’s MG is different, and pregnancy presents its own unique needs and symptoms, it is important that you discuss your medication and treatment options with your healthcare team. For your convenience, see this list of “Cautionary Drugs” to discuss with your provider.
Commonly Asked Questions:
Will my baby inherit my MG?
Most people with MG will not pass on MG to their children. Women with congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are at risk for transmitting MG to their children. See more about congenital myasthenic syndromes here.
What effects does MG have on delivery?
As a pregnant woman with MG, you can expect to have a typical labor and vaginal delivery. However, a cesarean may be necessary for because of fatigue and a long labor.
Will my baby be healthy?
Overall, the risk of birth defects does not increase for women with MG. In rare cases, transient neonatal myasthenia may occur, which does not signal long-term or future MG. See more about transient neonatal. myasthenia here.
How will pregnancy affect my MG?
About one-third of women will experience worsening of MG symptoms, while the remainder remain stable or experience improvement.
How will MG treatment affect my ability to get pregnant?
Generally, treatment with pyridostigmine (mestinon) does not affect the ability to become pregnant. Make sure to discuss your medications and treatment plan with your healthcare team in advance if considering pregnancy.
Also visit our Learn More About MG page here.
Being in the Workforce with MG
Effective communication in any job is essential to maintain a good employer/employee relationship. The decision to notify your employer about your MG is YOUR decision alone. You are not legally obligated to tell them. However, you are encouraged to inform your employer about MG and how it may affect your work. Your information will help the employer gain a broader understanding of MG and foster discussion about possible solutions to any challenges that your symptoms may present.
If you choose to let your workplace know about your MG, they may be able to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to help you fulfill your job responsibilities. Let your employer know what you need in order to do your job well. Your MG should work with your career, not against it. Be honest. If you are getting tired, communicate that. If you cannot physically do something, let your employer know. Work with them to find solutions.
Stressful situations on the job will often cause MG symptoms to worsen. Make your employer aware of this, so that they do not misinterpret the situation as poor performance. An especially busy time or stressful situation on the job may call for some brief time off to allow you to rest and recover. Flex time is a great option that can help meet your needs and your employer’s needs. If your workplace does not have a formal flex time policy, you can suggest it. Explain that through an alternate schedule, you can optimize your performance and productivity for the employer. If the employer remains skeptical, propose a month long trial schedule to help them assess the benefits of such an arrangement.
When someone in the workplace looks at you differently, perhaps because of eyelid ptosis or your inability to smile, use this as a teachable moment. Try to explain succinctly. You might say, “I see you are wondering why my eyelids seem so droopy (or why I’m wearing an eye patch, etc.). I have MG. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness. This is one symptom. If you are curious, you can learn more at myasthenia.org.” Become the teacher, and share your knowledge to educate people around you.
For more information about your rights in the workplace, as well as helpful tips for accommodation, please see here.