Flares of systemic lupus erythematosus during pregnancy and the puerperium: prevention, diagnosis and management

Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2012 Jul;8(5):439-53. doi: 10.1586/eci.12.36.


Systemic lupus erythematosus is a systemic autoimmune disease that primarily affects women in their reproductive age years. Pregnancy in systemic lupus erythematosus now has favorable outcomes for the majority of women. However, flares of disease activity, preeclampsia, fetal loss, intrauterine growth retardation and preterm birth are established risks of such pregnancies. Active lupus nephritis at the time of conception poses the greatest risk for disease flares and poor obstetric outcomes. Patients should delay conception until their lupus has been in remission for at least 6 months. In addition, certain lupus medications are potentially teratogenic and need to be stopped before conception. The signs and symptoms of a lupus flare may mimic those of normal pregnancy, impeding its recognition during pregnancy. Hydroxychloroquine, low-dose prednisone, pulse intravenous methylprednisolone and azathioprine are commonly used to treat lupus flares during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / physiopathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / prevention & control
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / therapy
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications* / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy Complications* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Complications* / therapy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*