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Pregnancy and the Nervous System

What is the nervous system?

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

  • Central nervous system - consisting of the brain and spinal cord
  • Peripheral nervous system - consisting of all other neural elements

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

  • 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?

The nervous system is vulnerable to various disorders. Disorders of the nervous system may involve the following:

  • Vascular disorders - such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage and hematoma, and extradural hemorrhage
  • 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?

Because many neurologic conditions and diseases cause severe illness, only a few conditions are seen in pregnancy. The most common conditions in pregnancy include the following:

  • Migraine headache
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis

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.

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

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