Once you become pregnant:
- See your doctor often. Frequent doctor visits can help identify abnormalities, monitor the baby’s growth, and offer you reassurance. About 25% of lupus pregnancies may result in premature birth of the infant. And between 20% and 30% of women with lupus will experience preeclampsia. This is a sudden increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, which leads to swelling in body tissue. Preeclampsia often requires urgent treatment and can only be cured by delivery of the baby; therefore seeing your doctor often is of the utmost importance. Your doctor can also monitor your baby’s growth through sonograms or ultrasounds, which are harmless for you and your baby.
- Watch for signs of lupus flares. Recent studies show that lupus flares are rare during pregnancy. In fact, many women experience improvement in their lupus symptoms during pregnancy. If you get pregnant after six months of remission, you’ll be less likely to experience a lupus flare than you would if your lupus were active. Symptoms of a lupus flare can mirror symptoms of pregnancy, so it is important to determine with your doctor whether you are experiencing a lupus flare or just the normal signs of pregnancy. Both can be marked by joint swelling and fluid accumulation, facial rashes, and hair changes.
- Take it easy to avoid lupus fatigue. Pregnancy can be hard on a woman’s body, and lupus can add challenges to a pregnancy. Getting enough rest is extremely important. Women with lupus should not gain excess unnecessary weight during pregnancy and should follow a well-balanced and healthy diet. Be prepared to modify your activities and routine if you feel tired or are in pain.
- Prepare for the possibility of premature delivery. About 50% of pregnancies in women with lupus deliver prematurely because of complications related to lupus. Choose a hospital that specializes in infant care and offers a neonatal intensive care unit should your baby arrive early or have any health issues. Though prematurity does present risks to the baby, most issues can be properly treated in a hospital that specializes in infant care.