Is it safe for those with autoimmune rheumatic diseases to undergo the termination of a pregnancy? According to research published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, the answer is yes. Learn more about the research here.
Types of Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases
There are multiple types of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. According to an article in Women’s Midlife Health, these include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Although the three listed above do affect those with ovaries more so than any other group, any person can have these.
Dr. Michael Lockshin sought to generate data that would allow medical practitioners to understand the safety of elective or medically recommended abortions for women with autoimmune rheumatic diseases (ARD). He wanted to address a clear lack of information within the field, as this topic has been largely unexplored.
To collect his observational data, Dr. Lockshin and his team used two main sources. The first was the PROMISSE study. This study examined pregnancy complications and outcomes for patients with lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can cause severe pain and inflammation.
The PROMISSE study followed patients with systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or antiphospholipid syndrome. Learn more about the PROMISSE study here.
The second source was an analysis of patients at the Barbara Volcker Center for Women and Rheumatic Disease. To protect patients, researchers did not observe them directly. Rather, medical records and information from outpatient visits over a period of 14 years, as well as laboratory information over a period of 9 years, were analyzed.
Lockshin and his research team found that there were no worse medical outcomes for patients with autoimmune rheumatic diseases who had an abortion compared to patients who did not have an abortion.
Approximately 283 patients from the Barbara Volcker Center, and 75 patients from the PROMISSE study, had between one and five abortions. Approximately 674 patients between both studies had a successful pregnancy, with only two fetuses dying before delivery. Patients who did have an abortion, whether elective or medically necessary, experienced no flare up of symptoms.
Why is this important?
Control over reproductive choices provides a person with autonomy over their own body. It could be stressful carrying a fetus to term while also recognizing the toll it can take on those with autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Lockshin states that:
“When patients’ lives are threatened, termination may improve their status.”
Ultimately, those with autoimmune rheumatic diseases can have a healthy pregnancy, and should, if they so choose. However, it is comforting to know that patients who are faced with a difficult decision about their own health can also make their own choice.