Oral contraceptives in women with systemic lupus erythematosus

Ann Med Interne (Paris). 1996;147(4):259-64.


Oral contraceptives (OCs) are generally not prescribed for women with SLE due to the widely-held view that they may activate disease. This practice is based on the greater incidence of SLE in women than in men, biologic abnormalities od estrogen metabolism, murine models of lupus, several anecdotes of patients having disease flares while receiving exogenous hormones, and a single retrospective study in patients with pre-existing renal disease. In contrast, recent retrospective patient surveys, albeit limited by the absence of formal analyses of disease activity, suggest that the rate of flare is not significantly increased in patients taking OCs. The preexisting data are insufficient to warrant the dismissal of a potentially important birth control option in a disease which predominantly affects women in their reproductive years and whose fertility is not altered by the disease. In counseling patients regarding lupus and pregnancy, there are clinical predictors of pregnancy outcome; patients in remission tend to do well. The same principles may be true regarding advice on the use of OCs; patients with inactive or stable/moderate disease and at low risk for thrombosis may benefit without a change in lupus activity. OCs with the lowest estrogen content should be used and consideration given to progestin only pills in situations where there is some risk of increased clotting. Large prospective double-blind placebo-controlled studies inclusive of all ethnic groups should provide the basis for more definitive recommendations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombosis / prevention & control


  • Contraceptives, Oral