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Arthritis and Pregnancy


Arthritis is a condition that causes redness, pain, heat and inflammation of the joints. There are many forms of arthritis. Some forms, such as Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be chronic with periods of flare-ups (when symptoms worsen) and remission (when symptoms completely clear).
Some conditions seem to involve a malfunction of the immune system (i.e. an autoimmune disease ) while others are due to overuse, or wear and tear on joints over time. Even chronic forms of arthritis can usually be well controlled. For most patients, medication combined with rest, protection of joints, good nutrition and exercise, will keep the disease in check.

Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects women in their childbearing years. Many women who become pregnant notice a marked decrease in the pain and swelling in their joints during their pregnancy, which may be due to an increase in the blood hydrocortisone level during pregnancy. Most of the usual treatments for arthritis are safe in pregnancy. These include rest, range-of-motion exercises and medicines such as steroids. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents and naproxen may not be used in pregnancy because of risk of harm to the developing foetus.

There is no evidence that RA affects fertility or causes damage to the developing foetus. However, labour and birthing positions that do not put undue stress or strain on affected joints should be adopted. Also, women who use steroids during pregnancy will need intravenous steroids during labour and delivery .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine & Prenatal Diagnosis:

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Arthritis in Pregnancy
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Arthritis, Rheumatoid:

Autoimmune Diseases
Colorado State University

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Contact Last modified: Oct 21 2004