Birth Control & MS Therapies

What do these two things have in common? Read my bio and you will see I am well past the point of worrying about one of these.   I have no worries about birth control methods – my children are 33 and 38 years old and I now have grandchildren.  I give the news stories about birth control and MS a quick glance, looking for good news I might share, but I don’t personalize the snippets that may show up and rarely think how they might relate to my Multiple Sclerosis.

That changed when I recently heard birth control and disease modifying therapies (DMTs) as the subject of another great analogy by my neurologist, Aaron Boster.  At times I think Dr. Boster channels the wry, cool wit of American humorist Will Rogers or the folksy observations of Garrison Keiler – at least he wears the same stylish cowboy boots. His stories are almost always enlightening, often entertaining.  and I  easily take them away and somehow they stick in my memory. There is research that shows1 how as patients we learn and retain our medical conversations longer when the doctors can relate the information through analogies and examples, and not just abstract medical terms and ideas.

If you search online for medical analogies, you will find extensive examples, many of which will make you smile even though they discuss serious medical conditions.  One I particularly like is attributed to a Dr. Ross Bridge, who explains neurologic seizures as the brain cells are like being at a rock concert – one person starts going wild with the dancing and screaming and pretty soon everyone else around does the same.  The drugs used for seizures quiet the troublemakers and that calms the crowd. I wonder which one of the seizure drugs might be the equivalent of riot police?

Dr. Boster was speaking via a webinar about the importance of being compliant with our MS therapies – the DMTs – and he discussed the various options and pointed out how we are fortunate to have many choices available these days.  One of the callers expressed concern about taking these  DMTs.  Just a few days  prior to this I heard another woman express similar thoughts  – she had questioned  a doctor at an MS talk about taking DMTs when the medical experts  can’t even tell us why they work, let alone if they will work for us and they usually don’t make our MS symptoms better.

His explanation, although rather simplistic, is the best explanation I have heard to date:   DMT’s are like birth control (you knew I would eventually get back to this) – they are not 100% effective but are the best way to prevent events down the road.  If we take birth control it only will help with FUTURE possibilities of pregnancy but will not take back the children we might already have.  The same goes for the DMT’s – they are the best hope we have  to not experience future accumulation of problems from our MS, but the DMT’s don’t take back what we already have gathered in the way of physical deficiencies.

To add my own personal experience with one of these drugs, I was a young mom with a three-month old in my lap while I was watching the daytime news at noon.  Out of no where came a medical news story on the television, flashing the picture of my birth control pills which were being recalled because they were found to be less effective than originally thought.  We certainly didn’t protest that our son was here but I definitely went to a different birth control.

We have that same situation with our DMTs – there may be new MS surprises while on our drugs, but we also have the options to try something different.  When it comes to taking care of our health, especially with our MS, it’s so important we do what we can to prevent future problems.  To share another analogy: we shouldn’t wait to do maintenance on our car until we have blown the engine – the same should be true with our MS.

Wishing you well,


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