The author of the study, Eliza Chakravarty, MD, assistant professor of medicine (immunology and rheumatology), will present her findings Nov. 15 during a scientific poster session at the American College of Rheumatology annual scientific meeting in San Diego.
Tina Chambers, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Diego, who was not involved in this study, said the findings fill a troubling gap in what is known about pregnant women who suffer from these autoimmune conditions. "Intuitively, you would think that it would be easy to access [such] data," she said, "but there is little to nothing in the literature about rheumatoid arthritis or lupus in pregnant women." (Chambers has collaborated with Chakravarty on other projects.)
In this study, Chakravarty aimed to see how the pregnancy outcomes for these women would compare with the outcomes for healthy women and women with diabetes. "Nobody knew these numbers," she said.
In autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system turns against parts of the body it is designed to protect, leading to inflammation and damage to joints. More than 2 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, while another 500,000 suffer from lupus. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus affect far more women than men, leading researchers to believe that hormonal factors may prompt their onset.