Systemic lupus erythematosus and pregnancy: A retrospective single-center study of 215 pregnancies from Portugal

Lupus. 2021 Nov;30(13):2165-2175. doi: 10.1177/09612033211050340. Epub 2021 Oct 24.


Objective: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a life-threatening disorder that affects women at reproductive age. We evaluate the clinical impact of pregnancy in a cohort of Portuguese SLE patients and the risk factors associated with maternal and fetal adverse outcomes.

Methods: A retrospective observational study that included all pregnant women with SLE managed at a Portuguese tertiary hospital, between January 1993 and December 2019. Baseline maternal information was collected, and maternal-fetal and neonatal outcomes were evaluated. Disease activity before and during pregnancy was assessed.

Results: We included 215 pregnancies from 143 patients. Lupus nephritis was present in 20.0% and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) in 21.9% of the cases. Preconception consultation was performed in 86.9% of the pregnancies, and 92.5% of the patients had no or low disease activity at conception. During gestation, 79.6% of the patients were under treatment, and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was the most commonly used drug (63.7%). Low-dose acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was prescribed at conception in 87.9% of the patients. The live birth rate was 84.2%. An adverse pregnancy outcome (APO) occurred in 41.4% of the pregnancies. A miscarriage rate of 15.3% and a preterm delivery rate of 15.4% were found. Preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction complicated 13.1% and 14.0% of the gestations, respectively. Neonatal lupus occurred in 7.1% of the newborns, and there were 2 cases of congenital heart block. Significant risk factors for the development of AOP were disease activity at conception, lupus flare, hypocomplementemia, positivity for lupus anticoagulant, and APS. The use of ASA was significantly associated with a reduced incidence of miscarriage. An SLE flare was diagnosed in 16.3% of the cases. We identified as risk factors for lupus flares the presence of active disease at conception, a previous history of lupus nephritis, and the use of chronic medication. HCQ use during pregnancy was associated with a significant reduction of flare incidence during pregnancy and postpartum.

Conclusions: Pregnancy in an SLE patient is associated with an increased incidence of adverse obstetric outcomes. Good disease control before pregnancy and adequate treatment, especially with HCQ, is crucial to achieving the best obstetric results.

Keywords: Pregnancy; antiphospholipid syndrome; lupus erythematosus; renal lupus; systemic.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / epidemiology
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / therapeutic use
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / epidemiology
  • Lupus Nephritis*
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Symptom Flare Up


  • Hydroxychloroquine