Researchers discuss findings from pregnancy studies on lupus patients
"For women living with lupus, pregnancy can bring an additional set of concerns," Dr. Rossi Daly, LFA's senior outcomes manager, said. "We attended many sessions about the latest research in lupus and pregnancy. The research presented brings the promise of better outcomes for pregnant women with lupus and their babies. This year’s conference was the first time with a session dedicated to lupus and reproductive health."
Daly said one session she found particularly interesting dealt with new discoveries to make pregnancy less dangerous for women with lupus and their unborn babies.
"For women with lupus, pregnancies are considered high-risk," Daly said. "Compared to women without lupus, pregnant women with lupus have a higher risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, low birthweight and preeclampsia."
Additionally, she said, studies were conducted to determine which pregnant women with lupus might have the least positive outcomes.
"The research focused on a part of the immune system called complement," Daly said. "Complement is made up of several proteins that help antibodies do their job. The researchers found that in women with APL -- a protein lupus patients have an excess of -- activation of a specific complement pathway was strongly associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. The researchers were able to find the activated pathway as early as 12 weeks."
Such studies have made it easier to forecast how severe the complications for lupus patients might be early in their pregnancies. And because of that, doctors can more closely monitor those pregnancies as they progress.
"While it does take time for research to translate into new treatments, tests and different methods of managing care, there are many things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy," Daly said.
For women living with lupus who wish to get pregnant, LFA officials suggest discussing family planning with a rheumatologist to determine if or how a treatment regimen would have to be adjusted.
For lupus patients who are already pregnant, LFA representatives recommend keeping all rheumatologist appointments and sticking to therapy regimens, as well as keeping active and paying attention to diet -- being sure to eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Getting plenty of rest is also important.
LFA officials urge lupus patients who are pregnant during the flu season to get a flu shot and to get a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (TDAP) shot between the 27th and 36th weeks of pregnancy.
Results from another study presented at the meeting showed that while lupus' activity slows somewhat during pregnancy, it often increases in the first year after the baby is born.
"Between the midnight feedings and round-the-clock diaper changes, it’s hard to find time," Daly said. "Make sure to ask for help so you can stick to your treatment plan and keep appointments with your care team."
Organizations in this story
LUPUS Foundation of America 270 Farmington Avenue, Suite 218 West Hartford - 06032