Lupus and Pregnancy

Someone you know has lupus
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrea Guerra

Lupus is an autoimmune disease which typically strikes women during their childbearing years (usually 15-35). The condition causes the body’s immune system to attack otherwise healthy body tissues and cells, leading to inflammation and damage to the affected tissue.

The organs and tissues most commonly affected by lupus include:

  • Heart
  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Lungs
  • Blood vessels
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Nervous system

While advancements are being made in treating lupus, there is no known cure. The disease typically has stages (called flare ups or flares) when the symptoms are more pronounced and remission stages when symptoms of the disease are less problematic.

Pregnancy Complications are More Common with Lupus

Several common pregnancy complications become more serious for expectant mothers with lupus. The most common complication is high blood pressure. Often, pregnant women who suffer from lupus have their blood pressure elevate to a point that is dangerous to mother and child alike.

Until recently, women with lupus have been advised to simply avoid becoming pregnant. Recent studies, however, offer a good deal of hope for women with lupus who are pregnant or desire to become pregnant.

Recent Studies Offer Reason for Hope

One recent study involved nearly 350 women who became pregnant despite having lupus. Of those studied:

  • 80% had successful, full term pregnancies.
  • Nearly 10% experienced pre-eclempsia.
  • Fewer than 6% lost their babies.
  • Nearly 10% had premature births.
  • None of the women died during pregnancy or childbirth.

Most current research suggests that it is relatively safe for women who have lupus to become pregnant. The key is to become pregnant during an extended relapse period. Most of the complications related to pregnancy and lupus came as a result of lupus flare ups during the latter part of the first trimester.

Stay in Close Communication with Your Doctor

As with women with other types of health issues, women with lupus should consult a doctor before attempting to become pregnant. Your doctor can advise you regarding any precautions you should take and can help you pattern flare ups to determine when you should avoid becoming pregnant.

Putting the Risks in Perspective

No pregnancy is without risk. In the general population, nearly 85% of pregnancies make it to full term. The risk is somewhat greater for those with lupus (80% full term).

Is that enough difference to forego trying to have a baby? What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

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