Pregnancy implications for systemic lupus erythematosus and the antiphospholipid syndrome

J Autoimmun. 2012 May;38(2-3):J197-208. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2011.11.010. Epub 2011 Dec 26.


Multidisciplinary approach and patient counselling have been the key points in the improvement of the management of pregnancy in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). Most of these women can have successful pregnancy when thoroughly informed and instructed on several different issues. Disease activity should be in stable remission prior to pregnancy in order to reduce the chance for flare during pregnancy. To this purpose, medications must be modulated: "safe" drugs should be continued throughout pregnancy, embryotoxic/foetotoxic drugs should be withdrawn timely, and beneficial drugs such as low dose aspirin and heparin should be added for prophylaxis of maternal and foetal outcome, especially in the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies. The safety profile of anti-rheumatic drugs during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be kept constantly updated, as new data from inadvertent exposure accumulates and new drugs (especially biological agents) are available. Patients may carry autoantibodies that can negatively affect the baby, being neonatal lupus the prototypical case of passively acquired autoimmunity. Research has been greatly active in this field and more information on risk stratification and management are now available for counselling. The effect of both autoantibodies and drug exposure has been evaluated in the offspring: some concerns about learning disabilities have been raised, but these are treatable conditions that are likely to be overcome. To counsel a woman with SLE/APS during childbearing age means also to deal with contraception. Despite the "preferred choice" - combined oral contraceptive - may not be suitable for most of the patients, other options are available and should be offered and discussed with the patient. Fertility is not generally affected in SLE/APS patients, but those cases who require assisted reproduction techniques should be carefully evaluated and managed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / immunology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents
  • Contraception
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Humans
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Lactation / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications / immunology*
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted