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Just a quarter-century ago, women with lupus were advised not to have children. Lupus is a disease involving flukes in the immune system that cause the connective tissue and organs to become inflamed. Although an expectant mother with lupus still faces greater health risks and a possibly greater likelihood of stillbirth or premature delivery than pregnant women without the disease, advanced medical care has made it possible for most women with lupus to safely have babies.

At this point in your pregnancy you have probably discussed your situation with your health care provider. Your provider is ideally an obstetrician experienced in high-risk pregnancies, and you should plan to deliver your baby at a hospital that can manage not only your care but your baby's specialized needs should he have them.

Although some women have more lupus flares during pregnancy, others do not. Some flares may be mild enough to treat with small doses of corticosteroids or by increasing other medications that you are already taking. You have a greater risk of developing preeclampsia, especially if your lupus has affected your kidneys; your provider will monitor you for sudden increases in blood pressure or spilling protein in your urine, because this condition can be serious.

What most pregnant women with lupus worry about is not their own health, but their baby's. While it's true that you face a higher risk of premature birth or a stillbirth, babies born to moms with lupus are actually no more likely to suffer birth defects than babies born to mothers who don't have the disease. A small number of them will have neonatal lupus, which is usually a temporary rash and abnormal blood count; it usually disappears by the time your baby is 6 months old and rarely shows up again.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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