Can pregnancy occur if diagnosed with lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease when the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissues, leading to inflammation in various body organs such as the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, and others. The appearance of a red facial rash in the shape of a butterfly characterizes lupus.
Lupus is one of the chronic autoimmune diseases affecting various body organs, including the skin and joints, and is the most prominent example of an autoimmune disease. Although it often begins on the skin, its health effects can affect several organs in the body, including the joints, kidneys, lungs, and possibly the nervous system and brain in advanced cases.
This disease is more common in women of childbearing age, and one man may develop lupus among ten women. The cause of lupus is unknown, but scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors may be related.
Exposure to sunlight can cause a sudden development of skin rash and other symptoms. In other cases, a cold or infection can be more dangerous, and the patient’s condition worsens, leading to complications. These complications may be the first signs of the disease.
In some women, the first symptoms and signs of the disease develop during pregnancy. In other cases, they appear shortly after childbirth.
In most patients, the disease appears as a skin eruption where the patient experiences redness on the face, often in the shape of a butterfly, which worsens particularly when exposed to sunlight. This stimulates cells in the body to secrete a particular substance that activates the development of lupus. Large red spots on the skin, joint pain and stiffness, and mouth or nose ulcers that last for days may also appear.
Symptoms of this disease may appear and disappear suddenly or slowly and can be mild or severe. Most people with it experience attacks, and symptoms and signs may worsen for a period, then improve or disappear altogether. The signs and symptoms also depend on the affected body systems. This disease often affects women between 15 and 45 years, although children, men, and the elderly are also at risk of developing it.
Some of the symptoms of this disease include:
- Facial rash that may spread to other parts of the body.
- General fatigue and tiredness.
- Skin lesions that worsen with sun exposure.
- Dry eyes.
- Memory problems.
- Confusion and disorientation.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
Over time, lupus can lead to kidney problems, where proteins or red blood cells are deposited in the urine, resulting in kidney failure. In addition, inflammation of the lung membrane can cause shortness of breath, heart muscle or arteries, or inflammation of the heart membrane. In advanced cases, the brain and central nervous system can be affected, causing headaches and changes in behavior, which can lead to strokes or seizures. Many people with lupus have memory problems and may struggle to express their thoughts. Lupus can also cause blood problems, including anemia and an increased risk of bleeding or blood clots. In addition, women with lupus have an increased risk of spontaneous abortion. Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent complications associated with the disease. Not all people with lupus have the same symptoms. Therefore, everyone should develop a specific plan with their specialist doctor. Effective treatment can reduce symptoms, limit inflammation, and maintain normal body functions for most lupus patients.
Pregnancy and lupus
Lupus does not reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, but all cases of pregnancy with lupus are high-risk. Therefore, if the instructions, advice, and careful monitoring are not followed, the pregnant woman is more susceptible to severe complications that affect the reproductive process in one way or another, and also affect the fetus. The disease should be in remission for at least six months before pregnancy, which requires prior planning so that the pregnancy period is safer for both the mother and the fetus.
Therefore, before considering pregnancy, it is necessary to consult a rheumatologist who specializes in treating lupus. It is essential to plan for pregnancy during the disease’s remission period rather than during its active period, where the risk of complications increases. It is also necessary to consult a gynecologist and a pediatric cardiologist to discuss the required procedures before pregnancy and to conduct clinical tests, analyses, and radiographs.
However, pregnant women wonder about the possibility of taking medication during pregnancy, which the doctor determines after assessing the risks according to the case and being informed of all the medicines taken. If the patient takes Hydroxychloroquine, it is strongly recommended to continue it during pregnancy. If not, the doctor advises starting it if there are no clear contraindications to control the disease’s activity. The doctor may prescribe low-dose aspirin from the first three months and adjust lupus treatment drugs to be compatible with pregnancy.
The pregnant woman must make frequent visits to monitor the pregnancy and fetal growth, especially as about 25% of lupus patients are at risk of premature delivery and exposure to pregnancy toxemia, which requires urgent intervention. The pregnant woman should get plenty of rest during the pregnancy months, with a focus on not gaining weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Despite the lack of a definitive cure for this disease, early detection and providing appropriate treatment can help control the disease and limit its damage. Due to the variation in symptoms among patients, the best treatment approach is to develop a specific treatment plan for each patient according to their medical condition. Knowing the patient and how to live with the disease and reduce its effects is the best way to control it. This can be achieved by following a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet, avoiding psychological stress, protecting the body from the sun’s rays, and quitting smoking.
Today, a wide range of modern treatments are available, and there has been significant progress in this field. Recently, the FDA approved new protein pills that help patients with lupus who have problems with their skin or joints. The advantage of this medication is that it is oral and not serum-based but highly effective.
One of the modern treatments that have contributed to changing the course of treatment for lupus patients is protein drugs that do not lower the body’s immunity, as do other lupus treatments. This is a treatment that gives hope to patients to live normal life.
When it comes to approved treatments, the first thing that rheumatologists turn to after an accurate diagnosis is a traditional treatment for lupus, Hydroxychloroquine. It is the first medication that is started to protect the kidneys and the immune system. Depending on the severity of the disease and its impact on the body, the patient is given cortisone medication.
Additionally, based on the severity of the condition, the doctor determines medications that lower the body’s immunity and improve the disease. These medications range from simple pills taken daily to those taken through sweat. It is worth noting that these immune medications do not significantly decrease the body’s immunity but only improve the disease state, and the patient is not susceptible to viral infections.