A person with lupus can safely get pregnant, but they will have a higher risk of certain complications during pregnancy. A person with lupus should seek medical advice if they are planning a pregnancy.
Over time, new treatments for lupus and a better understanding of the condition have meant that people with lupus can have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
However, a pregnant person with lupus still has a high risk of potential complications such as blood clots, decreased kidney function, and premature birth.
It is advisable for a person with lupus to consult a medical professional to plan their pregnancy. Their doctor will monitor their condition closely and may change their lupus treatment to keep both the parent and the baby safe during and after the pregnancy.
This article explains the potential risks of pregnancy if a person has lupus, what treatment adjustments may be necessary, and how a person can best prepare to get pregnant.
A person with lupus can get pregnant, although the condition and some of its treatments can have
If a person is planning to get pregnant, they should contact their doctor 3–6 months before they start trying to get pregnant. A medical professional may discuss ways to prevent infertility that may result from lupus treatments.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, a medication called cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) may cause infertility if a person takes it after puberty starts.
Cytoxan can lead to infertility by causing premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) — a condition in which a person’s ovaries stop working, usually before age 40. This can make it harder for a person to get pregnant.
To lower the risk of POI, a doctor may recommend that a young person take a medication called leuprorelin (Lupron) to delay puberty if they are taking cyclophosphamide.
Some people with POI can get pregnant by using fertility treatment methods such as In vitro fertilization.
Eating a nutritious diet and taking prenatal vitamins in the months before getting pregnant can help prevent lupus flares while a person is carrying their baby.
Additionally, certain drugs that doctors prescribe to treat lupus can cause developmental irregularities. A person should talk with their doctor about adjusting their medication. This can give them time to adjust to the change and lower their risk of pregnancy complications later on.
Antimalarial drugs and low doses of corticosteroids are safe, and a person can typically continue taking these medications during pregnancy.
The changes to a person’s medication and the additional stress on their body during pregnancy can cause lupus flares.
It is important that a person with lupus communicate well with their healthcare team during pregnancy and that healthcare professionals monitor the person closely.
Before giving birth, a person should also make plans with their doctor about resuming medications, as some drugs are still unsafe to take while nursing.
Healthcare professionals consider a pregnant person with lupus high risk because a flare can affect every system in a person’s body, including their reproductive organs.
A pregnant person with lupus can be more at risk of developing complications such as:
- high blood pressure, which can lead to preeclampsia
- blood clots
- premature birth
- HELLP syndrome, which has an association with preeclampsia
- urinary tract infections
- gestational diabetes
- pregnancy anemia
Less often, more severe complications can occur, including:
- miscarriage and stillbirth
- delayed fetal growth
- neonatal lupus and heart block
- kidney disease
People who have well-managed lupus and have plans in place with their doctors before they get pregnant will typically have the
A specialist such as an obstetrician, who is trained to care for people during pregnancy, can work closely with a person’s other doctors if the pregnancy is high risk.
The care and support a person gets when planning a pregnancy and while they are pregnant depends on how the condition affects them.
Generally, if a person has active lupus during pregnancy, healthcare professionals will monitor both the person and their baby.
If a person’s condition is stable, a specialist called a maternal-fetal expert can work with other doctors to help the person stay healthy during pregnancy.
Regular appointments to monitor the pregnancy may involve a doctor checking a person’s blood pressure and kidney health and the baby’s growth pattern.
The following sections provide answers to FAQs about lupus and pregnancy.
Is it hard for a lupus patient to get pregnant?
Lupus does not cause infertility, but a lupus flare can affect the reproductive organs.
Some lupus treatments can also have long-term effects on a person’s fertility.
A doctor may change a person’s lupus medications 3–6 months before the person wants to try to get pregnant. This can lower the person’s risk of having difficulty getting pregnant.
Can I pass lupus to my unborn child?
Yes. Neonatal lupus is an acquired condition that a pregnant individual can pass to a developing fetus. It is the result of a natural process that accidentally introduces autoantibodies to a growing fetus.
Most babies born to birthing parents with lupus are healthy. Rarely, an infant with neonatal lupus may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell levels.
Additionally, babies with neonatal lupus can develop a serious heart condition called congenital heart block. However, in most infants, the condition resolves after 3–6 months and does not return.
A doctor will test for neonatal lupus when a person becomes pregnant. Treatment can also begin at or before birth.
Why does lupus cause miscarriage?
A pregnant person with lupus has a higher risk of miscarriage because the condition can cause the following health problems, which may increase the risk of pregnancy loss:
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure
- the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies
An individual can potentially lower the risk of miscarriage by testing for lupus anticoagulant in early pregnancy.
Pregnancy outcomes for people with lupus have improved over the years. However, lupus and pregnancy still have associations with many health risks.
High blood pressure, premature birth, and anemia are some of the possible complications for a pregnant person with lupus.
An individual should consult their healthcare team while planning a pregnancy. Healthcare professionals can help a person manage the condition before getting pregnant.