Objective: To evaluate the safety of rituximab treatment before and during pregnancy in women with MS and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSDs) who may be at risk of relapses by performing a systematic literature review combined with a retrospective single-center case series.
Methods: Studies were systematically identified in the PubMed, Google Scholar, and EMBASE using the key terms "pregnancy" and "rituximab"; 22 articles were included for review (>17,000 screened). Then, patients with MS and NMOSD from 1 center (University of California, San Francisco) exposed to rituximab before conception were identified through medical record review.
Results: Systematic review: We identified 102 pregnancies with rituximab use within 6 months of conception: 78 resulted in live births and 12 in spontaneous abortions. Of 54 live births with reported gestational age, 31 occurred at term (37 weeks+) and 2 before 32 weeks. When checked, B-cell counts were low in 39% of newborns and normalized within 6 months. Case series: we identified 11 pregnancies (1 ongoing) in 10 women (7 MS and 3 NMOSD) treated with rituximab within 6 months of conception. All completed pregnancies resulted in term live births of healthy newborns (1 lost to follow-up at term). No maternal relapses occurred before/during pregnancy; 1 occurred postpartum (NMOSD).
Conclusion: No major safety signal was observed with rituximab use within 6 months of conception. Beyond the need for monitoring neonatal B cells, these observations support prospectively monitoring a larger patient cohort to determine whether rituximab may safely protect women with MS and NMOSD who are planning a pregnancy against relapses.