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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic condition that affects the skin and connective tissue, blood, cardiovascular and nervous systems, and the kidneys.

The immune system, which normally helps destroy foreign invaders, seems to turn against itself and attack healthy tissue in the body. Symptoms include discomfort, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, joint inflammation, rashes, blood-cell changes, sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss, kidney problems, and depression.

Increased risks for lupus patients

  • Women with SLE are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia.
  • Your baby may grow slowly. This can be detected by physical and ultrasound examinations. Complications from slow growth include fetal distress, early delivery, and even stillbirth.
  • Rarer risks include very slow fetal heart rate and transient lupus in the baby.

Pregnancy's impact on lupus

  • The chances of having a normal pregnancy and delivery are generally good, especially if the illness is under control from the beginning.
  • Lupus symptoms may improve during pregnancy, but may become more active again after the delivery. Some lupus drugs are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Your symptoms may worsen during pregnancy. In these cases, the lupus can often be successfully treated with increased medication.
  • A flareup of lupus that involves the kidney can look very similar to preeclampsia.
  • Women who need steroids during pregnancy require intravenous steroids during the delivery process.
  • Pregnancy is not known to have a long-term effect on lupus.

Other resources

  • Sidelines, a resource for high-risk mothers and their families
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