Autoimmune hepatitis and pregnancy: a rheumatologist's dilemma

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Aug;35(1):49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2005.03.002.


Objectives: To review the course, predisposing risk factors, treatment employed, and complications of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) during pregnancy. Maternal and fetal outcomes will be discussed.

Methods: We reviewed the literature from February 1966 to January 2004 using MEDLINE and the key words autoimmune hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis, lupoid hepatitis, and pregnancy. An additional case of ours was included as she had AIH since childhood with worsening of liver disease during pregnancy.

Results: Including the present case, 58 pregnant women with AIH were reported in 17 case reports and series. In the 101 pregnancies documented in these cases, there were 47 flare-ups, 5 clinical improvements, 45 stabilizations of the disease during pregnancy, and 4 cases in which the disease course was not reported. Two maternal deaths occurred. A perinatal mortality of 4% and 19 fetal deaths were described. Most women were treated with prednisone alone; however azathioprine was used in a number of patients.

Conclusions: Pregnancy course in patients with AIH is unpredictable. AIH exacerbates in some patients and is associated with a high rate of fetal complications including prematurity and death. Low-dose prednisone seems to be the preferred treatment. The use of azathioprine must be individualized and further studies are needed to better define its role and safety during pregnancy in patients with AIH.

Relevance: A better understanding of the course of pregnancy in patients with AIH should help design appropriate therapeutic schemes to improve pregnancy outcomes for both mother and fetus.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / complications
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / pathology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents