Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect many organs and tissues in your body. This is due to an abnormality in the immune system that makes it attack healthy tissues as if they were viruses or bacteria.
Anyone can develop lupus, but most patients that are diagnosed are females between the ages of 15 and 44.
The good news is that women with lupus can safely get pregnant and most will have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. However, all women with lupus who get pregnant are considered to have a “high risk pregnancy.” This means that problems during pregnancy may be more likely for women with lupus. It is important to note that it doesn’t mean there will definitely be problems.
If lupus is under control, pregnancy is unlikely to cause flares. However, we would suggest to start planning for pregnancy well before you get pregnant.
Pregnant women with lupus have a higher risk for certain pregnancy complications than women who do not have lupus such as:
Flare ups during pregnancy. The flares happen most often in the first or second trimester. Most flares are mild. But some flares require medicine right away. Always speak to a professional about managing flare ups.
Preeclampsia. This is a serious condition that must be treated right away. The risk of preeclampsia is higher in women with lupus who have a history of kidney disease. If you get preeclampsia, you might notice sudden weight gain, swelling of the hands and face, blurred vision, dizziness, or stomach pain.
Other complications. These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney problems. Eating healthy can help prevent these problems during pregnancy. Regular doctor visits can help find problems like these early so they can be treated to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Most babies born to mothers with lupus are healthy. Very rarely, infants are born with a condition called neonatal lupus. Certain antibodies found in the mother can cause neonatal lupus. At birth, an infant with neonatal lupus may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell levels.
Infants with neonatal lupus can develop a serious heart defect called congenital heart block. But, in most babies, neonatal lupus goes away after three to six months and does not come back.
You might not be able to tell the difference between changes in your body due to pregnancy and warning signs of a lupus flare. Talk your healthcare provider about any new symptoms you may find. Together you and your healthcare provider can determine whether your symptoms are because of your pregnancy or your lupus. This way, you can help prevent or control any flares that do happen.
Breastfeeding is also possible for mothers with lupus. However, we suggest talking to your healthcare provider as some medicines can pass through your breastmilk to your baby.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.