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Pregnant Women With Lupus Are At Greater Risk

from the disease.

Previous research also has shown that pregnancy can increase the activity level of lupus, increasing the danger to the woman and sometimes causing problems in her fetus, according to Clowse. What was not certain, she said, is how much lupus increased a woman's health risk.

To help answer this question, Clowse's team analyzed data from more than 18 million pregnancy-related hospital admissions and discharges in the United States from 2000 to 2002. The study found that slightly more than 13,500 women with systemic lupus gave birth during this time, and 44 of the women -- 0.3 percent -- died, Clowse said.

Overall, women with systemic lupus showed a more than 20-fold greater risk of pregnancy-related death, compared with women without the disease, she said. Extrapolating this observed increase in risk to the general population suggests that for every 100,000 women with systemic lupus who would deliver a baby, approximately 325 of them would die, compared with approximately 14 deaths for every 100,000 women without the disease who would give birth, Clowse said.

"We don't want these results to scare women with lupus away from getting pregnant, especially if they have a mild form of the disease," Clowse said. "But these women really must plan their pregnancies. They may need to change their medications before they get pregnant, and they really shouldn't conceive when their lupus is active."

Clowse said patients whose lupus has been dormant for at least six months before conception are at low risk for developing active systemic lupus during pregnancy and therefore are at least somewhat less likely than women whose disease is active to experience health complications.

However, all women with systemic lupus do face elevated risks for pregnancy complications, she said. In the study population, women with systemic lupus, compared to women without the disease, were nearly six times more likely to suff
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