A reversal of thinking: How women with lupus can increase chance for healthy pregnancies

October 26, 2008

In the not so distant past, women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease, were advised not to have children, and if they became pregnant, to have therapeutic abortions to prevent severe flares of their lupus. Research by rheumatologists at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, in patients with lupus who have had successful pregnancies is yielding insights that support a reversal of that thinking.

The research effort, a multi-center research initiative lead by Jane Salmon, M.D., attending physician at Hospital for Special Surgery, is known as the PROMISSE (Predictors of pRegnancy Outcome: bioMarkers In antiphospholipid antibody Syndrome and Systemic lupus Erythematosus) Study.

Two research projects will be presented at this year's American College of Rheumatology meeting in San Francisco on October 24-29 by Dr. Salmon, based on data gathered from the PROMISSE Study. She and her collaborators identified factors that help a woman and her doctor plan for a healthy pregnancy.

Patients with lupus can live free of symptoms for long periods of time and then experience a disease "flare," when symptoms such as a red rash across the nose and cheeks, painful or swollen joints, swollen legs or extreme fatigue suddenly appear. The first presentation will examine whether problems during pregnancy can be correlated to the severity, frequency and timing of disease flares. Dr. Salmon and her colleagues followed 198 pregnant patients with lupus. The investigators found that women who conceived while their disease was stable or only mildly active had relatively infrequent flares during their pregnancies and delivered healthy babies. This held true regardless of past disease severity or past kidney disease (a frequent consequence of lupus). The findings inform women with lupus on how to plan when to conceive to have a low risk pregnancy.

Lupus patients, as well as other patients with the antiphospholipid syndrome, produce special types of proteins called antiphospholipid antibodies that can attack their own tissues and cause pregnancy complications. The second study to be presented by Dr. Salmon showed that the presence of a specific subset of these autoantibodies is highly associated with poor pregnancy outcomes. Specifically, the researchers found that women who tested positive for an autoantibody called lupus anticoagulant were more likely to have complications such as miscarriage or preeclampsia during pregnancy.

These results can help doctors identify patients at high risk for complications by obtaining a blood test to determine if they are positive or negative for the lupus anticoagulant autoantibody. While women with lupus or the antiphospholipid syndrome who are positive for this protein can still have successful pregnancies, their doctors should monitor them more closely for early signs of pregnancy complications.

"Based on our new data, we believe we are in a position to help doctors counsel and care for their patients," says Dr. Salmon, Collette Kean Research Chair and co-director, Mary Kirkland Center for Lupus Research at HSS. "In the past, women were discouraged from becoming pregnant because of a very high risk to the mother and the baby. Our findings from the PROMISSE study show that women with lupus can have normal pregnancies when they work together with their doctors, beginning with the decision of when it is safe to conceive and continuing with close follow-up to anticipate potential problems."

Source: Hospital for Special Surgery

Explore further: Anxiety and depression lower quality of life in majority of systemic lupus erythematosus patients

Related Stories

Alternative therapy for lupus nephritis

April 15, 2009

Lupus is a rare but serious disease that mainly affects women of child-bearing age and occurs when the body's immune system goes awry, damaging a variety of organs. When kidneys are targeted, patients develop lupus nephritis, ...

FDA approves first new drug for lupus in 56 years

March 10, 2011

(AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the first new drug to treat lupus in over 50 years, a milestone that medical experts say could prompt development of other drugs that are even more effective ...

Kidney transplants generally safe for lupus patients

November 2, 2009

Individuals with a history of lupus who receive a kidney transplant rarely develop the serious inflammatory condition lupus nephritis in their new organ, according to a paper being presented at the American Society of Nephrology's ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.