Objective: To study the obstetric course of women with a history of recurrent miscarriage associated with antiphospholipid antibodies, lupus anticoagulant and anticardiolipin antibodies, treated with low dose aspirin and low dose heparin.
Design: Prospective observational study.
Setting: University based tertiary referral clinic.
Population: One hundred and fifty pregnant women with a history of recurrent miscarriage associated with persistently positive tests for antiphospholipid antibodies.
Methods: Lupus anticoagulant was detected using the dilute Russell's viper venom time together with a platelet neutralisation procedure. IgG and IgM anticardiolipin antibodies were detected using a standardised enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. An IgG anticardiolipin level > or = 5 per litre units and an IgM anticardiolipin level > or = 3 per litre units was considered positive. Aspirin (75 mg daily) was commenced at the time of a positive pregnancy test and heparin (5000 units subcutaneously 12 hourly, or enoxaparin 20 mg daily) was started when fetal heart activity was demonstrated on ultrasound. Treatment was stopped at the time of miscarriage or at 34 weeks of gestation.
Results: One hundred and seven pregnancies (71%) resulted in a live birth. Forty-one pregnancies (27%) miscarried, the majority in the first trimester. One woman had a stillbirth, and one a premature baby who died in the neonatal period. One pregnancy was terminated for a fetal anomaly. Gestational hypertension complicated 17% (18/108) of ongoing pregnancies and antepartum haemorrhage 7% (8/108). Twenty-six babies (24%) were delivered before 37 weeks of gestation. Fifty women (46%) were delivered by caesarean section. The median birthweight of all live born infants was 3069 g (range 531-4300); however 15% (16/108) of the infants were small for gestational age.
Conclusion: Combination treatment with aspirin and heparin leads to a high live birth rate among women with recurrent miscarriage and antiphospholipid antibodies. However, successful pregnancies are prone to a high risk of complications during all trimesters. Close antenatal surveillance and planned delivery of these pregnancies in a unit with specialist obstetric and neonatal intensive care facilities are indicated.