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Katie Belthoff McCarten

Pregnancy and MS

Holy Name Headache Treatment Program - Katie Belthoff McCarten

Katie Belthoff McCarten is a planner, always making lists to keep her family's life organized. But after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, planning virtually stopped. Would she be able to take care of her daughter? Could she and her husband J.P. have more children? What would her future look like? A darkness enveloped her that made it impossible to focus.

Katie's symptoms started immediately following the birth of her daughter. Katie felt off – maybe it was carpal tunnel. But it was difficult to ignore the dizziness that would also come and go, some tingling in her feet and an alarming jabbing in her spine. She knew something wasn't right.

"I was afraid to hold my baby – I didn't know if I would drop her," Katie said. "It was awful, I'd find myself in tears and didn't know what was wrong. I was afraid to drive and felt trapped without answers."

Finally, at age 32 and with a 5-month-old baby, Katie was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. She knew nothing about the disease and despite having strong support from family and friends, it was all she could think about – filling her thoughts first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.

She sought treatment at a large NYC hospital and started feeling better. She had a second child, yet she found it difficult to get appointments for treatment. Getting stuck there with her husband during a snowstorm finalized her decision – she came to Holy Name and saw Dr. Asya Wallach, a neurologist at The Alfiero & Lucia Palestroni Foundation Multiple Sclerosis Center.

By then, Katie was pregnant with her third child. She had fertility issues in the past and was thrilled, but still nervous about how MS would affect her pregnancy. Dr. Wallach instantly put her at ease.

"The second I walked in, I knew I made the right choice coming to Holy Name," Katie said. "Everyone was so welcoming and I immediately felt like I was part of a family. Dr. Wallach is so knowledgeable and compassionate. I felt a sense of hope."

Katie had gotten pregnant in between treatments, the best time for patients with MS to conceive, said Dr. Wallach. MS shouldn't interfere with pregnancy.

"I explained that pregnancy often suppresses MS relapses and Katie would need a treatment soon after giving birth," Dr. Wallach said. "We planned for that and everything went really well."

Katie now has three children under the age of five, plus she works full time for an insurance company. Through it all she hasn't lost her sense of humor.

"Instead of it being on my mind constantly, there are days when I don't even think about MS. And when I go to the infusion center, I feel like I'm with friends. It's actually kind of nice – with three kids, it's the only time I get to sit in a chair by myself and relax," Katie said, laughing.

Learn more about The MS Center at Holy Name