A look at how pregnancy affects arthritis, and how arthritis can affect pregnancy. Whether or not to have a baby is a major decision, even more so if you have arthritis. Arthritis does have the potential to complicate pregnancy at every stage, but with extra precautions and proper medical care most women with rheumatic disease can still have a successful pregnancy.
As everyone may well know, rheumatoid arthritis is systemic and also chronic and an autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting the joints that can affect women irrespective of their age. And, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy, women will undergo an alteration in their immune state that can change into an autoimmune disease, and there have also been ameliorating effects of being pregnant on a woman with rheumatoid arthritis, which has been confirmed by some recent studies on the subject. Nevertheless, there are as many as seventy to eighty percent of such patients that will experience remission while they are pregnant, though one quarter of these patients will suffer from rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy and in some cases, the disease may worsen thereby needing to be treated even when the patient is pregnant.
Whatever improvements are felt in rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy are generally of a temporary nature with patients soon relapsing during postpartum period, and why there is improvement in rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy has yet to be fully discovered. However, theories have been put forward such as it could occur due to changes in hormones during pregnancy, effects of pregnancy on immunity that is mediated by cells and alteration to neutrophil function during a pregnancy.
If you look at the figures related to rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy, you will find that though rheumatoid arthritis does affect only one to two percent women, rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy is not as rare a condition as one might expect it to be and women who are at an age of reproduction are most likely to be affected. There have also been studies on the effects of rheumatoid arthritis on pregnancy, and it has been found that majority of women in the US having rheumatoid arthritis may be relatively unaffected by their pregnant condition and the maternal morbidity rates among women with rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy are about the same as for those who have rheumatoid arthritis and are not pregnant.
Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy have any effect on fetal outcome, though there are some reported instances of premature birth and even reduction in growth due to rheumatoid arthritis, while other reports do not suggest any change in fetal outcomes at all.
Thus, it would be safe to assume that there are no real long term effects on a womans health condition as far as rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy is concerned, and studies also point out there is no appreciable changes in the outcome of pregnancy in women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
In some cases, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are relieved during pregnancy. This can occur at any time during the pregnancy. In most women, the improvement occurs by the end of the fourth month. Although joint swelling may decrease, joint pain and stiffness can still persist due to existing joint damage. Unfortunately, the improved symptoms do not continue after the pregnancy is over. A flare in the disease can occur approximately two to eight weeks after the baby is born.