Objective: The reciprocal relationship between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and pregnancy was investigated in a controlled study.
Method: The outcome of 47 pregnant SLE patients with 59 pregnancies was compared with that of 57 healthy control women and 59 pregnancies. The results were also compared with those of 59 non-pregnant control SLE patients.
Results: All pregnant SLE patients but one were in remission at the onset of pregnancy and were being treated with low doses of prednisone (< or = 10 mg/day, 26 patients), hydroxychloroquine (200 mg/day, eight patients) or azathioprine (100 mg/day, one patient). Sixty-one per cent of SLE pregnancies were delivered at term and 5% had premature deliveries. The rates of spontaneous abortion and total fetal loss were significantly higher in the mothers with SLE than in the control population (P: < 0.001 and P: < 0.01 respectively). None of the 39 neonates from SLE mothers had neonatal lupus, anti-Ro(SSA) or anti-La(SSB) antibodies. Eight out of 59 pregnancies of SLE mothers (13.5%) were characterized by disease exacerbation. Arthralgias or arthritis, fever and skin lesions were observed more frequently in the mothers with SLE than in the non-pregnant group (P: < 0.001). Renal involvement was found in three SLE patients during pregnancy and in three after delivery.
Conclusions: Pregnant women with SLE are at high risk of fetal loss and spontaneous abortion. Pregnancy does not cause life-threatening manifestations of the disease. Thus, for a better outcome of lupus pregnancy, it is essential to control disease activity and to achieve clinical remission.