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Women With RA or Lupus Give Birth to Fewer Children

Women With RA or Lupus Give Birth to Fewer Children

More than half of women who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have fewer children than desired, according to a new study. The findings suggest that higher rates of infertility and miscarriage also may affect the number of offspring born to women with these chronic conditions.

To further understand the role of infertility, pregnancy loss, and family size choice in women with RA and SLE, investigators from several institutes surveyed 1017 women participating in the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases. Respondents to a reproductive-health questionnaire were categorized as women interested in having children at symptom onset who had fewer children than planned or the same number as planned and those no longer interested in having children at diagnosis.

More than 60% of respondents were no longer interested in having children at diagnosis; 55% of women with RA and 64% of those with SLE had fewer children than originally planned. Overall, the infertility rate among patients with RA was 42% in women who had fewer children than desired. In those who received a diagnosis of RA during their childbearing years, the infertility rate was higher than in those with a diagnosis after childbearing was complete. For patients with SLE, no significant increase in infertility was noted.

The authors suggested that patient education to enhance awareness of safe medical options during pregnancy and effective control of these autoimmune diseases helps women achieve their childbearing goals. The findings were published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, an American College of Rheumatology journal.

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