Lupus & Pregnancy
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (organs, joints, and/or skin).
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (organs, joints, and skin). Since it is a chronic disease, the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than 6 weeks and often for many years. This disease can be challenging to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic other ailments.
The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly across both cheeks. While this rash is a helpful identifier, it does not develop with all cases of lupus. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing this disease, which may be triggered by certain drugs, infections, or even sunlight. There is no cure for lupus, but treatments can help you control your symptoms.
Lupus and pregnancy
If you have lupus, pregnancy is still very much possible. Advancing technology and a better understanding of the disease and its effects on the body have improved pregnancy outcomes over the last 40 years.
Certain risk factors can make you a higher risk for lupus flares and poor fetal outcome during your pregnancy. These factors include:
- Present or pre-existing hypertension (high blood pressure)
- A history of
- previous preeclampsia
- kidney disease (or the presence of)
- blood clots
- antiphospholipid antibodies (or the presence of)
- low platelets
A successful pregnancy is possible if you plan correctly! In these cases, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (and a rheumatologist) will need to monitor you closely.
What are the symptoms of lupus?
Most people with this disease experience episodes (or flares) when their signs and symptoms get worse for a period. Those signs and symptoms will then improve and even disappear for a time.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
- A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Skin lesions that get worse when exposed to the sun
- Shortness of breath
- Fingers and toes that turn blue or white when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
- Confusion and memory loss
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
No two cases of lupus are exactly alike. Your experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. The above-stated symptoms are all a possibility if you have lupus, unfortunately. At Unity Maternal Fetal Medicine, we provide our patients with highly specialized medical care and state-of-the-art technologies to ensure that whatever your journey has in store, you are properly cared for and supported.
What are the causes?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease and occurs when your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your body. It likely results from a combination of your environment and your genetics. People with an inherited predisposition for lupus may develop the disease when they come into contact with an environmental trigger. Potential triggers include sunlight, infections, and certain medications (blood pressure and anti-seizure medications and antibiotics).
The disease is more common in women and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15-45.
Planning your pregnancy with Dr. Stanley-Christian
All lupus pregnancies are considered high-risk, meaning that problems may occur and must be anticipated. The best time to get pregnant is when you are healthy. Women in remission have much less trouble with pregnancy than women whose disease is active. We recommend that you meet with Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian 6 months in advance of when you plan to try to become pregnant. She will help you manage your disease and prevent flares.
Your pregnancy will also need to be managed by Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian or a medical professional who has advanced training and education in how to support a pregnancy when Lupus is present. Your provider will make sure you get the necessary lab tests (including urinalysis, blood chemistry tests, and more) once you are pregnant. You will also be given instructions/recommendations concerning medications, rest, diet, and exercise.
It is an unfortunate truth that pregnant women with lupus have been known to experience complications. Dr. Stanley-Christian will discuss these complications with you and ensure that you are in safe hands. She is a triple board certified MD (OB/GYN, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Clinical Genetics).