Objective: To study the reproductive health history in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) compared to population controls.
Methods: A total of 206 female SLE patients were interviewed regarding demographic and disease data, menstruation, use of contraception and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), infertility, and pregnancies. The control group consisted of 1037 women from the general population of similar age and socioeconomic status living in the same region.
Results: In SLE women compared to population controls, mean age at menarche (13.3 vs. 13.2 years) and frequency of infertility (16% vs. 16%) were similar but menopause occurred earlier (44.9 vs. 46.8 years, p = 0.01). Current use of oral contraceptives (OCs) was less common than in controls [18% vs. 28%, odds ratio (OR) 0.55, 95% CI 0.3-1.0] while previous use of progesterone-containing intrauterine devices (IUDs) was more common (13% vs. 5%, OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.9-5.4). Current use of HRT was similar (22% vs. 21%) but SLE patients had started the use earlier (43.2 vs. 47.1 years, p = 0.003). Mean number of pregnancies was lower in SLE patients compared to controls (2.3 vs. 2.5, p = 0.046) and in lupus nephritis patients compared to SLE patients without nephritis (1.9 vs. 2.5, p = 0.01). No difference was found in the occurrence of spontaneous and induced abortions compared to controls, but pregnancy-associated complications were more common in SLE women.
Conclusion: When compared to population controls women with SLE are normally fertile, use less OCs and more IUDs, have earlier menopause and use HRT as frequently. Family size is reduced, especially in lupus nephritis patients, and pregnancy-associated complications are more common.