Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Management in Pregnancy

Int J Womens Health. 2022 Feb 15;14:199-211. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S282604. eCollection 2022.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) affects reproductive aged women. Issues regarding family planning are an important part of SLE patient care. Women with SLE can flare during pregnancy, in particular those who have active disease at conception or prior history of renal disease. These flares can lead to increased adverse pregnancy outcomes including fetal loss, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth and small for gestational aged infants. In addition, women with antiphospholipid antibodies can have thrombosis during pregnancy or higher rates of fetal loss. Women who have anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies need special monitoring as their offspring are at risk for congenital complete heart block and neonatal lupus. Ideally, SLE patients should have their disease under good control on medications compatible with pregnancy prior to conception. All patients with SLE should remain on hydroxychloroquine unless contraindicated. We recommend the addition of 81mg/d of aspirin at the end of the first trimester to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia. The immunosuppressive azathioprine, tacrolimus and cyclosporine are compatible with pregnancy and lactation, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF)/mycophenolic acid are not. Providers should use glucocorticoids at the lowest possible dose. Methotrexate, leflunomide and cyclophosphamide are contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. SLE patients on the biologics rituximab, belimumab and abatacept can continue these medications until conception and resume during lactation.

Keywords: fertility; medications; pregnancy; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Review