Objective: To analyze the course of maternal diseases and the outcome of pregnancy in patients with systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).
Study design: During a period of 11 years we prospectively followed 60 pregnancies in 46 SLE patients in a tertiary care center in Barcelona (Spain). The management protocol included: (1) planning of conception when disease was inactive; (2) frequent follow-up visits by an internist-obstetrician team; (3) use of sequential ultrasonographic, Doppler and fetal echocardiographic examinations; (4) serial evaluations of maternal immunological condition; and (5) low dose aspirin from 1 month before attempting conception and throughout pregnancy was added in women with antiphospholipid antibodies. From 1985 until 1994 prednisone prophylaxis was used in all lupus patients during the last month of pregnancy and during the first month of the puerperium; from 1995 onwards this regime was abandoned.
Results: The mean (S.D.) age of patients was 28.6 (4.8) years (range 20 to 42) and the mean (S.D.) previous duration of SLE was 6.25 (4.8) years (range 0 to 17). SLE was diagnosed during the pregnancy in two cases (3.3%) and the disease was active at conception in four cases (6.7%); at that time nine patients (15%) were taking prednisone. Antiphospholipid antibodies were positive in 16 patients (30.4%) and there were 10 (16.7%) pregnancies in patients having lupus nephropathy. There were three first-trimester miscarriages (5%) and four (6.7%) voluntary abortions. Obstetric complications in the remaining 53 pregnancies included: preterm delivery, 11 cases (20.8%); intrauterine growth retardation, five cases (9.4%); hypertension, 10 patients (18.9%), five of them fulfilling the criteria of preeclampsia; premature rupture of membranes, four patients (7.5%); finally, 13 neonates had a birthweight lower than 2500 g. There were 15 lupus flares (28.3%), giving a flare rate of 0.044 per patient/month. There were five neonatal deaths (perinatal mortality rate, 94 per thousand): one because of complete heart block, three due to severe hyaline membrane disease resulting from extreme prematurity and one intrauterine death in a patient having the Leiden mutation.
Conclusion: Pregnancy in patients with SLE should not be regarded as an unacceptable high-risk condition for the mother or her baby provided that conception is accurately planned and patients are managed according to a careful multidisciplinary treatment schedule.