Continuing Medical Education

Rheumatic diseases and pregnancy

A Gcelu


Rheumatic diseases predominantly affect young women of childbearing age; therefore pregnancy is a topic of major interest. Pregnancy-induced changes in immune function can have an effect on underlying disease activity. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common autoimmune disease affecting women during their reproductive years, has an increased incidence of disease flares during pregnancy. In rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, there is spontaneous improvement in disease symptoms.However, rheumatic diseases and their treatment can have a significant impact on pregnancy outcomes. Poor pregnancy outcomes are largely associated with high disease activity. Pregnant women with rheumatic diseases constitute a high-risk population, with potential adverse fetal and maternal outcomes. Treatment options can be limited in pregnant women owing to concerns about the adverse effects of commonly used medication on the fetus.The aim of this article is to discuss the optimal management of pregnant women with SLE and other rheumatic diseases, including antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The effects of pregnancy on underlying diseases and vice versa are discussed.


Author's affiliations

A Gcelu, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, South Africa

Full Text



Pregnancy; Rheumatic diseases

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(9):643. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8763

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-08-03
Date published: 2014-08-03

Article Views

Abstract views: 4711
Full text views: 6513

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here