Monday, October 05, 2009
Just read about this in an article today..
Pregnancy and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Women with lupus who conceive face high-risk pregnancies that increase the risks for themselves and their babies. It is important for women to understand the potential complications and plan accordingly. The most important advice is to avoid becoming pregnant when lupus is active.
Research suggests that the following factors predict a successful pregnancy:
Disease state at time of conception. Doctors strongly recommend that women wait to conceive until their disease state has been inactive for at least 6 months.
Kidney (renal) function. Women should make sure that their kidney function is evaluated prior to conception. Poor kidney function can worsen high blood pressure and cause excess protein in the urine. These complications increase the risk for preeclampsia and miscarriage.
Lupus-related antibodies. Antiphospholipid and anticardiolipin antibodies can increase the risks for preeclampsia, miscarriage, and stillbirths. Anti-SSA and anti-SSB antibodies can increase the risk for neonatal lupus erythematosus, a condition that can cause skin rash and liver and heart damage to the newborn baby. Levels of these antibodies should be tested at the start of pregnancy. Certain medications (aspirin, heparin) and tests (fetal heart monitoring) may be needed to ensure a safe pregnancy.
Medication use during pregnancy. Women with active disease may need to take low-dose corticosteroids, but women with inactive disease should avoid these drugs. Steroids appear to pose a low risk for birth defects, but can increase a pregnant woman’s risks for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, infection, and osteoporosis. For patients who need immunosuppressive therapy, azathioprine (Imuran) is an option. Methotrexate (Rheumatrex) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) should not be taken during pregnancy.
Women with lupus are 20 times more likely to die during pregnancy than women without the disease. The risk for maternal death is due to the following serious conditions that can develop during pregnancy:
Miscarriages. About 25% of lupus pregnancies result in miscarriage. The risk is highest for patients with antiphospholipid antibodies, active kidney disease, or high blood pressure.
Blood clots. Women with lupus have a 6 times greater risk for developing deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) than women without the disease.
Clotting complications. Low blood platelet count and anemia are also risks. Women with lupus are 3 times more likely to need a transfusion during pregnancy than women without lupus.
Infections. Blood infections (sepsis), pneumonia, and urinary tract infections are more common in pregnant women with lupus.
Preeclampsia. Women with lupus are three times more likely than healthy women to develop preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure), which can be potentially life threatening.
Birth Complications. Women with SLE have an increased risk of having a pre-term birth, stillbirth, or Caesarean section.
Despite these obstacles, many women with lupus have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. To increase the odds of a successful pregnancy, it is important for women to plan carefully before becoming pregnant. Be sure to find knowledgeable doctors with whom you can communicate and trust. Pregnant women with lupus should try to assemble an interdisciplinary health care team that includes a rheumatologist, high-risk obstetrician, and (for patients with kidney disease) a nephrologist.