Pregnant women with lupus face nearly twice the risk of developing preeclampsia, a dangerous condition in which pregnant women develop high blood pressure, new research shows.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers, who reported the findings in a study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, said the results should prompt more research into the increased risks faced by pregnant women with the autoimmune disorder and the safety of drugs prescribed to treat its symptoms.
According to the study’s findings, pregnant women who use so-called DMARD medications — short for Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs — to prevent flare-ups were at particular risk for preeclampsia. DMARDs include: methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall); hydroxycholorquine (Plaquenil); etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira).
"Understanding how DMARD use impacts women with autoimmune disease is important, especially during pregnancy, as previous research found that women with [lupus] had at least a two-fold increase in preeclampsia risk and women with [rheumatoid arthritis] had a two-fold increase of this severe pregnancy complication," said lead researcher Kristin Palmsten.
To reach their conclusions, Palmsten and her colleagues tracked the medical charts of 224,827 women with and without lupus to identify those who filled a prescription for DMARDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or corticosteroids before and during pregnancy.
The results showed that pregnant who took DMARDs were at greater risk of preeclampsia, compared to non-users and those without an autoimmune disease.