Lupus is an auto-immune disorder that can cause chest pain, mouth sores, fatigue, hair loss and general discomfort. The condition was once thought to affect pregnancy outcomes, but new research suggests that women with lupus can conceive and give birth to healthy, full term infants just like women who do not suffer from the condition.

Researchers at the Hospital for Special Surgery reported results of their study at the American College of Rheumatology annual conference in Chicago. According to researchers, women with lupus have been incorrectly advised to avoid pregnancy due to potential risks to the fetus and pregnant mother. These suggestions appear to be based on outdated health data no longer relevant with today’s medical care and technology.

Lupus is characterized in typical auto-immune fashion. The body attacks its own cells as foreign bodies. During pregnancy, it was once assumed that this attack could increase chances of the female body attacking the fetus, thus affecting pregnancy outcome. During the study, nearly 350 women with lupus were evaluated. Researchers found that pregnancy outcome was normal in up to 80% of the pregnancies.

Lupus is a condition that can lie dormant for long periods. When symptoms arise, women often suffer from flare-ups characterized by short periods of moderate to severe symptoms. During the study, 62 women suffered from pregnancy complications. Of the complications, 10% included preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition that can lead to early birth and death for the mother or fetus. Flare-ups occurred at 20 weeks for some women and 32 weeks for others. Only 19 women in the study lost the baby during pregnancy. Another 30 women delivered early.

All women included in the study were pregnant with only one fetus. Complications from multiple pregnancy could increase the risk of lupus flare-ups and other complications related to the auto-immune disease. Complications appeared to be concentrated on the 20th and 32nd weeks of gestation.

Source: Jane Salmon, MD; Michael Lockshin, MD; Lisa Sammaritano, MD; Jill Buyon, MD; Ware Branch, MD; Carl Laskin, MD; Joan Merrill, MD; Michelle Petri, MD, MPH; Mimi Kim, D.Sc; Mary Stephenson, MD. Hospital for Special Surgery. 7 November, 2011.