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Pregnancy and the Nervous System

What is the nervous system?

The nervous system is a complex system that regulates and coordinates body activities. It is made up of two major divisions:

  • Central nervous system. This consists of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Peripheral nervous system. This consists of all other neural elements.

In addition to the brain and spinal cord, organs of the nervous system include:

  • Eyes

  • Ears

  • Sensory organs of taste

  • Sensory organs of smell

  • Sensory receptors located in the skin, joints, muscles, and other parts of the body

What are some disorders of the nervous system?

Disorders of the nervous system may involve the following:

  • Vascular disorders such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), and bleeding in or around the brain 

  • Infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, polio, and epidural abscess

  • Structural disorders such as brain or spinal cord injury, Bell's palsy, cervical spondylosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, brain or spinal cord tumors, peripheral neuropathy, and Guillain-Barré syndrome

  • Functional disorders such as headache, epilepsy, dizziness, and neuralgia

  • Degeneration such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's chorea, and Alzheimer's disease

What are some neurologic conditions that may be seen in pregnant women?

The most common conditions in pregnancy include the following:

  • Migraine headache

  • Epilepsy/seizures

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Stroke

Some neurologic diseases have little or no effect on pregnancy, while others can greatly increase the risks for pregnancy complications and maternal and fetal illness. Likewise, pregnancy can affect some neurologic conditions, but not others. Pregnancy-related complications of elevated blood pressure and fluid retention (pre-eclampsia and the more serious eclampsia) may cause neurological problems.

Care of pregnant women with neurologic conditions often involves a team of health care providers. Women can increase their chances for a healthy pregnancy by getting early and regular prenatal care and working with their health care providers in the management of their disease.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/15/2014
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