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How to Have a Successful Pregnancy with Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease which is found to affect more women, especially those in their childbearing years. While this long-term condition does not reduce the chances of conception, it does make a pregnancy high-risk due to potential complications that can affect the health of both mother and child. This includes an increased likelihood of miscarriage, premature delivery, preeclampsia and congenital heart disorders in the baby.

Thanks to technological advancements in modern medicine, many women with lupus go on to have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. The key lies in careful planning and close monitoring with a rheumatologist and obstetrician to ensure the best possible outcome.

Below are some tips to consider if you have lupus and are planning to build a family.

  1. Plan your pregnancy. To increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy with minimal to no complications, you should wait until your lupus is under control, or has been in remission for 6 months, before trying to get pregnant. When planning your pregnancy, it’s best to do so under the care and supervision of a team of specialists who can determine when the safest time for you to get pregnant is. Your team should include a rheumatologist who specializes in rheumatic and autoimmune diseases and an obstetrician who is well-versed in high-risk pregnancies.
  2. Assess your personal risk for pregnancy-related complications. No two women are the same, and as such, their risk and intensity of lupus complications in pregnancy will vary. Again, your team of medical professionals will play a crucial role in identifying these risks and managing them to ensure a safe pregnancy. They will screen you regularly for antibodies that might increase the risk of miscarriage or complications in the baby’s health. They will also check your current lupus treatment medications and alter them accordingly to be more pregnancy-friendly, while at the same time manage lupus symptoms and flare-ups.
  3. See your doctors often. This applies before and during pregnancy. Studies show that approximately 10% of lupus pregnancies end in premature labor, while up to 30% of these women will experience preeclampsia. Regular visits with your healthcare providers are not only essential to keep your lupus condition under control, it also ensures that your pregnancy is progressing well and your baby is developing healthily. These visits can also help you identify and treat lupus flare symptoms, including joint swelling, fluid accumulation and rashes, which are easily mistaken for signs of pregnancy.
  4. Prepare for the possibility of premature delivery. Women who are diagnosed with lupus have a higher risk of pregnancy complications. According to statistics, one in three women with lupus will deliver before 37 weeks gestation. Though the risks are higher, you can still ensure the safety of your baby by delivering in a hospital that specializes in infant and neonatal intensive care.
  5. Take good care of yourself. Apart from religiously following your doctor’s prescribed treatment for lupus, you can minimize complications by staying in peak condition. This involves resting as much as possible to avoid lupus fatigue, eating a well-balanced diet, adopting a healthier and more active lifestyle, and generally modifying routines to prevent pain and exhaustion.
A/Prof Leong Keng Hong provides safe and effective management of autoimmune and rheumatic disorders such as lupus and arthritis. To learn more about our services, visit our rheumatology clinic, or call 6472-4337 to set an appointment.

About Our Arthritis Specialist

A/Prof Leong Keng Hong is a senior consultant Rheumatologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre and Adjunct Associate Professor, Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He founded the Osteoporosis Society (Singapore) in 1996 and served as its President until 2004. He was also the Inaugural Chairman of the Chapter of Rheumatologists, College of Physicians, Academy of Medicine, Singapore from 2004-2007 and its current Chairman until 2013.

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