Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus can be associated with gestational hypertension (maternal high blood pressure), preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction and fetal death. Lupus patients may have abnormal placentation (attachment), which is a major contributor of many pregnancy complications due to reduction in maternal blood flow to the fetus. Despite potential risks, women with SLE can have healthy pregnancies. Women with SLE should have low disease activity for the 6 months prior to conception for the best chance of a successful, healthy pregnancy. The PROMISSE Study was a large multicenter prospective study of pregnant and postpartum SLE patients. The study showed that 26 % of patients had a flare (worsening) during pregnancy, and 24.4% had a flare in the postpartum period. Most of the flares were mild and infrequently required therapy. Only 6.3% of the patients had severe flares during pregnancy and 1.7% had severe postpartum flares.
Data suggests that the drug, Plaquenil, used during pregnancy was associated with fewer preterm births and less intrauterine growth restriction. Findings also suggest that discontinuation of Plaquenil is associated with higher lupus disease activity during pregnancy.
For SLE patients not looking to conceive, IUDs are considered safe and effective. Other acceptable contraceptive options, when used appropriately, include condoms, progestin (only oral contraceptives) or depo-provera injections. Estrogen-containing contraceptives are contraindicated in the setting of active lupus, as they may flare the disease.
Main Line Rheumatology’s Amy L. Lundholm, DO, is board certified in both rheumatology and internal medicine. Dr. Lundholm holds current membership in the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association and the American College of Rheumatology. She was chosen as a rheumatology Top Doctor 2018 Main Line Today magazine. To read more about Dr. Lundholm, go to Our Staff.