Lupus In Pregnancy
If you have been diagnosed with lupus, you are likely worried how a pregnancy may affect your lupus symptoms. Likewise, youï¿½re likely concerned whether the symptoms of lupus will aggravate your pregnancy symptoms. You may also be anxious over lupus causing complications during your pregnancy or increasing your risk of a miscarriage. Understanding more about lupus and how it can affect your pregnancy can help you take the necessary precautions to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects more than 16,000 Americans every year. Inflaming the skin, joints and major bodily organs, lupus can be mild or severe and can be short-lived or permanent. Lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) generally affects many more women than men with typical onset for women being in the reproductive years. Years ago, women with lupus were advised not to get pregnant as the possibility of miscarriages and health risks were too high. Now women with lupus are encouraged to become pregnant as there is a 50% success rate in pregnancies with proper treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
People with lupus are commonly affected by the following symptoms:
- Skin rash
- Kidney Damage
- Light sensitivity
- Changes in behavior
- Vision problems due to brain or nervous system dysfunction
- Heart and Lung conditions
- Mouth ulcers
- Blood disorders
People with lupus often have accompanying symptoms like extreme fatigue, fever, swelling of face or legs, digestion problems, hair loss and depression.
Causes of Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease meaning that the immune system attacks invading foreign bacteria and healthy bodily tissues, like the joints, skin and the brain. Researchers are still not clear on the exact cause of lupus but they have several theories. Some people may be more prone to developing lupus if they inherit the genes responsible for the disorder. In these people, other environmental factors may trigger the disease. The outlying factors may be contraction of a viral or bacterial infection, use of certain antipsychotic or heart and high blood pressure medications, sun exposure and estrogen in menstruating and pregnant women.
Risks Associated with Lupus in Pregnancy
Lupus pregnancies are considered high-risk and need to be maintained carefully by a rheumatologist and an obstetrician for the best possible care. Women with lupus are generally advised to wait until their disease has been in remission for at least six months without medication before they get pregnant. A woman should be free of medications that could harm her unborn baby and cause birth defects. It is known that
- 40% of women suffer lupus symptom flare ups during pregnancy
- 20% of women suffer pre-eclampsia
- 50% of women will have premature babies
Women with lupus have a high rate of stillbirths in the third trimester due to the presence of certain antibodies in their blood that disturb the placenta and interfere with the babyï¿½s growth. Therefore lupus pregnancies are watched very closely to resolve any complications quickly. A pregnant woman may have to stay in the hospital for testing throughout her pregnancy and, in the case of premature labor, give birth by cesarean.
Some women with lupus also have antibodies that can compromise a babyï¿½s health after she is born. Anti-Ro or Anti-SSA antibodies can cause:
- Skin rash
- Abnormal blood count
- Irregular heartbeat
Most of these symptoms can be rectified within three to six months time and heart problems can be treated successfully. Women who have active lupus, are on medications (including cyclophosphamide, chlorambucil, plaquenil and azathioprine), or have kidney damage are advised to not get pregnant or to delay getting pregnant.
Treatment for Lupus
The current treatment for lupus is a range of medications and self care methods, like proper rest, exercise and diet, getting vaccinations and wearing sunscreen. Some of the drugs available for lupus patients are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids and immunosuppressive medications. Speak with your doctor about which treatments to stop if you are trying to conceive. Never stop taking medications without speaking to your health care provider first.