Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

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