Monday, November 17, 2008

Healthy Pregnancies for Lupus Patients

For quite some time, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have been counseled by doctors to abstain from becoming pregnant. Even in cases where patients did become pregnant, doctors have recommended abortions to keep patients healthy.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease and up until now doctors thought that pregnancy could cause severe flare-ups of their lupus symptoms, including swollen joints and legs, painful joints, extreme fatigue and a red rash, oftentimes referred to as a ‘butterfly rash’, that develops across the cheeks and nose. The advice to abstain from becoming pregnant was mostly based on the fact that doctors felt that complications could occur, especially with protein antibodies that are created in the body due to lupus that cause the body to attack its own tissues.

To understand pregnancy and lupus, researchers from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York have developed projects based on the PROMISSE Study, which stands for Predictors of pregnancy Outcome: biomarkers In antiphospholipid antibody Syndrome and Systemic lupus Erytematosus.

The first project produced interesting results. Their results suggested that women who become pregnant while not having a flare-up of symptoms were less likely to have flare-ups during pregnancy. They found that these women had healthy babies and little to no complications, regardless of how severe their past lupus flare-ups have been. This suggests that if women plan when to get pregnant and do so while healthy and without lupus symptoms, they may be able to have healthy, non-complicated pregnancies.

The second project focused on women who had the antibody lupus anticoagulant present in their system. They found that these women were more likely to have preeclampsia and miscarriages, though with medical care many had healthy pregnancies. This suggests that a blood test can allow doctors to know if they should keep a closer watch on these patients to help them stay healthy throughout their pregnancy.

All in all, the studies are giving hope to women with lupus and changing the medical notion that women with lupus should not become pregnant or have abortions. With planning, blood tests and close medical monitoring, lupus patients may be able to have healthy pregnancies.

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