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Management of systemic lupus erythematosus during pregnancy: challenges and solutions

Authors Knight CL, Nelson-Piercy C

Received 2 July 2016

Accepted for publication 16 August 2016

Published 10 March 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 37—53

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OARRR.S87828

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Lucy Goodman

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Chuan-Ju Liu


Caroline L Knight, Catherine Nelson-Piercy

Division of Women’s Health, Women’s Health Academic Centre, King’s College London and King’s Health Partners, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK

Abstract: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, multisystem autoimmune disease predominantly affecting women, particularly those of childbearing age. SLE provides challenges in the prepregnancy, antenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum periods for these women, and for the medical, obstetric, and midwifery teams who provide their care. As with many medical conditions in pregnancy, the best maternal and fetal–neonatal outcomes are obtained with a planned pregnancy and a cohesive multidisciplinary approach. Effective prepregnancy risk assessment and counseling includes exploration of factors for poor pregnancy outcome, discussion of risks, and appropriate planning for pregnancy, with consideration of discussion of relative contraindications to pregnancy. In pregnancy, early referral for hospital-coordinated care, involvement of obstetricians and rheumatologists (and other specialists as required), an individual management plan, regular reviews, and early recognition of flares and complications are all important. Women are at risk of lupus flares, worsening renal impairment, onset of or worsening hypertension, preeclampsia, and/or venous thromboembolism, and miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery, and/or neonatal lupus syndrome (congenital heart block or neonatal lupus erythematosus). A cesarean section may be required in certain obstetric contexts (such as urgent preterm delivery for maternal and/or fetal well-being), but vaginal birth should be the aim for the majority of women. Postnatally, an ongoing individual management plan remains important, with neonatal management where necessary and rheumatology follow-up. This article explores the challenges at each stage of pregnancy, discusses the effect of SLE on pregnancy and vice versa, and reviews antirheumatic medications with the latest guidance about their use and safety in pregnancy. Such information is required to effectively and safely manage each stage of pregnancy in women with SLE.

Keywords: systemic lupus erythematosus, preconception counseling, medication, management of pregnancy, pregnancy complications, neonatal lupus

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