Pregnancy outcomes and contraceptive use in patients with systemic lupus Erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and women without a chronic illness: a comparative study

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To compare the pregnancy outcomes and contraceptive practices in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and women with no chronic illness (WNCI) in a tertiary care referral center in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Patients with SLE satisfying American College of Rheumatology criteria for diagnosis and history of pregnancies were recruited from university lupus clinic, National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL). Age-matched women with history of pregnancy and RA were recruited from the rheumatology clinic, NHSL and WNCI from a surgical clinic.


In 71 patients with SLE, 79 pregnancies occurred in 38 patients. The number of total pregnancies in SLE, RA and WNCI (79, 80 and 85 respectively) were not significantly different (P > 0.05), but most occurred before diagnosis of SLE and RA. Pregnancies occurring after diagnosis were significantly higher in SLE compared to RA (P = 0.013, χ2 = 6.169). Mean age at diagnosis was higher (P < 0.01) in RA (35 years) than in SLE (26 years). Percentage live births after diagnosis was significantly lower (P < 0.01) in SLE (9/20; 45%) compared to RA (6/8; 75%) and WNCI (77/85; 91%). Adverse fetal outcomes (fetal loss, pre-maturity, low birth weight) and assisted deliveries were significantly more (P < 0.001) in SLE than in WNCI. Unplanned pregnancies were significantly higher (P < 0.01) in SLE (80%) compared to RA (25%) and in WNCI (9.4%). Contraceptive usage was lower in patients with SLE (25.6%) and RA (33%) compared to WNCI (56.4%). Disease exacerbations occurred in 20% of SLE patients during pregnancy.


More pregnancies occur in SLE than in RA after diagnosis of illness. Unplanned pregnancies and adverse pregnancy outcomes need to be addressed more in SLE than in RA or in WNCI.

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