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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Pregnancy


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or simply lupus, is a complex, chronic condition that affects the skin and connective tissue, blood, cardiovascular and nervous systems and the kidneys. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system, which normally helps destroy foreign invaders, seems to turn against itself and attack healthy tissue in the body.
Signs and symptoms that are common to this illness include: generalised discomfort, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, joint inflammation, rash, blood cell changes, sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss, kidney problems, depression.

SLE and Pregnancy

The chances of having a normal pregnancy and favourable delivery are generally good especially if the illness is under good control at the start of pregnancy. Lupus symptoms may improve during pregnancy, but may become more active again after the delivery. Some of the drugs that are used to treat this condition are safe to use during pregnancy, while others can not be used. Women with SLE are at higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia .

Slow foetal growth can occur. This can be detected by physical examination and by ultrasound examination. If this does occur the baby will be at risk of foetal distress, need for preterm birth and even stillbirth .
Uncommon problems include congenital foetal heart block (very slow foetal heart rate) and transient lupus in the newborn baby.

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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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Pregnancy
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Contact Last modified: Oct 21 2004