Safety issues and recommendations for successful pregnancy outcome in systemic lupus erythematosus

Simran Kaur Nahal, Carlo Selmi, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) primarily affects women of childbearing age. One of the major changes in SLE focuses on the timing of a successful pregnancy. In the past, pregnancy was strongly discouraged in SLE, especially in the presence of risk factors such as nephritis, use of immunosuppressive therapies, or positivity of specific autoantibodies such as anti-phospholipids and anti-Ro/SSA, La/SSBA. Thanks to our better knowledge on the disease and management, pregnancy success rates in SLE patients have significantly improved care by the a multidisciplinary team which fosters a successful pregnancy with minimal complications for the mother and fetus when the disease is inactive or in remission. This approach is based on a counseling phase before pregnancy, to assess SLE activity phase, specific medications, risk factors, and continues through pregnancy and lactation with significantly improved pregnancy outcomes. Further, we can now better define the risk of disease flares during pregnancy based on a better understanding of the changes in maternal immunity and its relationship with SLE-associated autoimmunity and chronic inflammation. There is wide consensus that women with SLE can have successful pregnancies as long as conception is planned in a phase of inactive disease, and when the patient is closely managed by a rheumatologist, high-risk OB/GYN, neonatologist, and other medical specialists as indicated. Preconception counseling is essential to assess the risk of both fetal and maternal complications as well as identify life-threatening contraindications. Particular attention should be used in those SLE cases that have nephritis, APS or positivity for aPL, pulmonary hypertension, and positive anti-Ro/SSA or anti-La/SSB antibodies. In conclusion, the use of specific guidelines on the management of SLE before and during pregnancy and lactation, and a better understanding of the use of immunosuppressive therapies have significantly increased pregnancy success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Anti-phospholipid
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Rheumatology
  • Teratogenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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