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Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Birth Rates

Women With the Autoimmune Diseases Often Have Fewer Children Than Desired, Study Finds

RA Patients Had More Infertility continued...

She adds that women with rheumatoid arthritis who wish to have children need to know that their ability to conceive may be compromised.

“This needs to be part of the conversation,” she says. “Women with rheumatoid arthritis who want to have children may be better off trying to conceive sooner rather than later if their family circumstances support this.”

Infertility did not fully explain why so many women with rheumatoid arthritis had fewer children than they had originally planned to have.

Among fertile patients who fell into this category:

  • Fifty-three percent reported concerns that their illness would negatively impact their ability to care for children.
  • Thirty-seven percent expressed concern that their disease or medication would negatively impact a pregnancy.
  • Seventeen percent were concerned that their children would develop the disease.

Pregnancies Should Be Planned

New York rheumatologist Cynthia Aranow, MD, says young women with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus who are considering having children need to plan their pregnancies carefully.

Aranow is an investigator with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.

Women with lupus, for example, can reduce their risk of having a miscarriage or a baby born prematurely by avoiding conception until their disease has been inactive for at least six months, Aranow tells WebMD.

And certain rheumatoid arthritis medications, such as the widely prescribed drug methotrexate, are not safe for use during pregnancy.

“There are relatively safe medications for both of these conditions that can be used during pregnancy,” Aranow says. “That is why pregnancy planning is crucial.”

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