Pregnancy and Lupus
Caring for Yourself During Pregnancy
In addition to seeing your doctor regularly and following your treatment plan, there are many things you can do to care for yourself and your baby:
- Get plenty of rest. Plan for a good night's sleep and take breaks throughout the day.
- Eat healthfully. Avoid excessive weight gain. Have your doctor refer you to a dietitian if needed.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- If you have any unusual symptoms, speak to your doctor right away.
Managing Delivery and a New Baby
Your doctor will decide the method of delivery -- caesarian section or vaginal. He'll do this by taking into account your health and your baby's health at the time of labor. Many women with lupus can have vaginal deliveries. But if the mother or baby is under stress, a caesarean section may be the safest and fastest way to deliver. If you have taken steroids during pregnancy, your doctor will increase your dose during labor to help your body cope with the added stress.
While most mothers and babies do well, lupus often flares after the delivery, and other problems, including the following, can occur:
Breastfeeding difficulties. Babies born prematurely may not be strong enough to suckle and draw out breast milk. Mothers who deliver prematurely or are taking certain medications may have trouble producing breast milk. Also, some mothers need to take medications that can pass though the breast milk and are advised not to breastfeed. Most of these issues can be resolved. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns about breastfeeding.
Neonatal lupus. Neonatal lupus is not the same as lupus in the mother. About 3% of babies born to women with lupus will have the condition. Most often it's transient, which means it will pass. The condition consists of a rash and abnormal blood counts. By the time the baby is 6 or 8 months old, the condition usually disappears and never returns. In rare cases, babies with neonatal lupus will have an abnormal heart rhythm that is permanent and may require a pacemaker.
After the delivery, it is important to see your doctor regularly to monitor the changes in your body as it returns to the way it was before you were pregnant. Although you will be focused on caring for your new baby, remember it's important that you take care of yourself.