Pregnant Women with Lupus Need Careful Monitoring

By Kristine Hartvigsen on May 1st, 2017

Without question, lupus can be debilitating. Many in the general public know little about the disease, and some believe women with lupus can’t have children. That’s absolutely not true.

With certain precautions, there is no reason a woman with lupus should not be able to have a normal pregnancy and healthy birth. Lupus pregnancies, however, are considered high-risk. In consultation with her doctor, a woman with lupus who is considering pregnancy is advised to plan carefully and, if possible, try to conceive after her lupus has been dormant (no flare-ups) for at least 6 months.

Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by extreme fatigue, joint pain, facial rash, skin lesions, fever, headaches, or memory loss. It occurs when the body’s immune system goes awry, attacking its own healthy tissues and organs.

What causes lupus is unknown, though researchers are exploring the impact of hormones, genetics, and environment. Because 90% of lupus sufferers are women, scientists suspect the disorder may be related to the hormone estrogen. Researchers also have identified more than 50 genes associated with lupus.

Women with lupus are 50% more likely to give birth prematurely. They also have a higher risk for miscarriage and pre-eclampsia.

A number of medications treat the symptoms of lupus, and it’s important that women consult with their physicians on the pregnancy safety of the medications they are taking. If the prescriptions are not safe for pregnancy, they can be slowly weaned off of them and switched to a substitute medication that can alleviate symptoms and is safe for pregnancy.

Among medications commonly prescribed for lupus, corticosteroids have been considered safe in pregnancy in low doses. Further research on corticosteroid safety in pregnancy is still needed. One recent study found an increased risk for serious infections among pregnant women using high-dose steroids. Ultimately, the study concluded that pregnant women who receive high-dose steroids should be closely monitored.

Women with lupus who are hoping to conceive and give birth should be sure to be thoroughly evaluated prior to conception, be monitored throughout their pregnancies, and continue monitoring for up to 6 months after giving birth, because childbirth and breastfeeding can exacerbate lupus symptoms.

In observance of Lupus Awareness Month in May, supporters are encouraged to wear purple. In fact, May 19 is national Wear Purple Day. So don that purple dress, scarf, tie, or hoodie and express your support of lupus sufferers everywhere.

This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.


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