Skip to content
    Font Size

    Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Birth Rates

    Women With the Autoimmune Diseases Often Have Fewer Children Than Desired, Study Finds
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Feb. 16, 2012 -- More than half of women diagnosed with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis prior to completing their families end up having fewer children than they had planned for, new research suggests.

    The study is among the first to examine infertility, pregnancy loss, and family planning choices in women with the autoimmune diseases.

    Lupus, RA, and Childbirth

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus are often diagnosed in younger women, yet their impact on childbearing is not well understood.

    It is clear from earlier research that women with rheumatoid arthritis tend to have fewer children than healthy women and that women with lupus have more miscarriages.

    But the reasons for this are not so clear, and prior studies have not examined how living with a chronic autoimmune disease impacts family size and family planning decisions, says Duke University Medical Center investigator Megan Clowse, MD, who runs the center’s autoimmune disease pregnancy registry.

    “We wanted to learn more about how having lupus or rheumatoid arthritis influenced these decisions,” she says.

    Clowse and colleagues surveyed 578 women with rheumatoid arthritis and 114 with lupus enrolled in a national autoimmune disease registry.

    Among their findings:

    • 55% of the women with rheumatoid arthritis and 64% of those with lupus who were interested in having children reported having fewer children than they had hoped to have.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis patients who had fewer children than planned were one-and-a-half times more likely to report problems with infertility than patients who had as many children as they had hoped for.
    • Lupus patients who had fewer children than they had planned to have had a three-fold higher miscarriage rate than lupus patients who had the number they had planned for. There was no significant difference in infertility rates.

    RA Patients Had More Infertility

    Overall, 42% of the rheumatoid arthritis patients who had fewer children than desired reported having problems conceiving.

    The finding came as a surprise to the investigators.

    “This study highlights the need to understand why women with rheumatoid arthritis appear to have more problems with infertility,” Clowse says. “This has not been studied at all.”

    Today on WebMD

    rubbing hands
    Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
    mature couple exercising
    Decrease pain, increase energy.
    mature woman threading needle
    How much do you know?
    Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
    Lucille Ball
    Hand bones X-ray
    prescription pills
    Woman massaging her neck
    woman roasting vegetables in oven
    Woman rubbing shoulder
    doctor and patient hand examination