Brunilda Nazario, MD
Lupus does not reduce a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Less than 50% of pregnancies in women with lupus have complications, but all lupus pregnancies are considered high-risk. Lupus can complicate pregnancy with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and preeclampsia, as well as heart problems in the baby. If you have lupus and are considering having a baby, consider these tips to ensure a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.
“Preconception counseling allows women who have lupus to discuss their personal health with their doctor to assess risks based on how lupus has affected her thus far,” says Larry Matsumoto, MD, maternal fetal specialist at Atlanta Perinatal Consultants. “Not all women are the same, so it is important to know what your lupus means for your pregnancy.”
Some pregnancies will require treatments early on. These treatments counteract risks of complications and should begin within the first few weeks of pregnancy for best results. The risk of complications is greater if you are having a lupus flare, so it’s important to work with your doctor.
Placental blood clots can endanger your baby’s food and oxygen supply and slow the baby’s growth. If you do have an increased risk of blood clots, your doctor might prescribe a blood thinner such low-dose aspirin, or heparin. You might also be screened for anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies. These antibodies pose an increased risk of the baby having a congenital heart block.
Kidney or liver damage caused by lupus increases the chance of complications during pregnancy. Pregnancy tends to increase stress on the damaged organs. “I worry about women with lupus who have kidney disease more than almost any other condition,” says Matsumoto. “The challenges that pregnancy presents can overwhelm the kidneys and cause irreversible damage.”
SOURCES:Lupus Foundation of America, “Pregnancy.”Larry Matsumoto, MD. Maternal Fetal Specialist, Atlanta Perinatal Consultants.National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases “Lupus: A Patient Care Guide for Nurses and Other Health Professionals.”Lupus Foundation of America, “Pregnancy and Lupus.”Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, “Lupus and Pregnancy.”
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