According to study results published online February 16, 2012 in Arthritis Care & Research, more than half of the young women diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus had fewer children than they had hoped to have. The study included 578 women with rheumatoid arthritis and 114 with lupus who completed a questionnaire about their reproductive history. The women were classified as interested in having children when symptoms began but who had fewer than they planned to have, interested in having children when symptoms began and had the number of children planned, or not interested in having children by the time their disease was diagnosed.
Results showed that 55% of women with rheumatoid arthritis and 64% of women with lupus who were interested in having children, had fewer than they hoped to have. Women with rheumatoid arthritis who had fewer children than they hoped for were 1.5 times more likely to have infertility issues than women with rheumatoid arthritis who had the number of children they hoped to have. Women with lupus who had fewer children than planned had 3 times the rate of miscarriage as women with lupus who had the number of children planned. More than 60% of women were not interested in having children at the time they were diagnosed. A significant number felt their disease would affect their ability to care for their children. Others were concerned that the disease itself or treatment would negatively affect pregnancy -- and there were some who feared passing on the disease to their children.
Interestingly, this story stirred some difficult memories for me. I was diagnosed at the age of 19 with rheumatoid arthritis (back in the 1970s). Over the next few years, my rheumatologist did express concern about the severity of my disease and my ability to care for a newborn, should I decide to have children. His concern weighed heavily on me at the time. If you are planning to start a family, involve your rheumatologist. You will need their guidance to have a healthy pregnancy. If you are not blessed with a biological child, remember that you can still be involved in raising stepchildren, adopted children, nieces, and nephews.
- Pregnancy Advice for Women With Arthritis
- Guide to Pregnancy and Arthritis
- Women With Lupus and RA Have Greater Pregnancy Complications
Photo by Richard Beebe (iStockphoto)