Fertility may be affected by several factors including certain diseases you may have. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you will have to discuss your options of becoming pregnant with your fertility doctor. In the past, autoimmune diseases such as lupus have made it impossible to become pregnant and doctors advised against pregnancies, but today, pregnancy is possible despite the presence of an autoimmune disease. It is important to talk to your doctor and when becoming pregnant, to be under constant monitoring. The baby will also have to be monitored during pregnancy.
There are several autoimmune diseases, including Lupus and Addison’s disease. These diseases manifest through an abnormal activity of the immune system. The immune system performs the task of defending the organisms from intruders such as viruses or bacteria. In some cases, the immune system will be defective and will attack the body’s own cells.
How Autoimmune Diseases Affect Fertility
When you are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, your immune system may attack even healthy cells in your body. This may affect a possible pregnancy, as the embryo may be destroyed by the cells produced by the immune system, identifying the embryo as a foreign body that needs to be eliminated. However, not all women with an autoimmune disease will experience this.
You should also be aware that certain medications, such as cyclophosphamides (or Cytoxan), can affect fertility and this can be the cause why you fail to conceive. The drug has been associated with miscarriages. For this reason, you should plan a pregnancy when not under medication.
Pregnancy and Autoimmune Diseases
Pregnancy is possible if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, but it’s important to communicate with your doctor and establish the best time to plan for a baby. Ideally, you should become pregnant at a time when the disease is in remission. Even during pregnancy, an autoimmune disease (i.e. lupus) may activate and cause a flare-up. This can be typically controlled. Medications such as prednisone and aspirin can be administered during pregnancy and may not be dangerous for the baby. Prednisone is a cortisone drug that will suppress the activity of the immune system, while aspirin will reduce the swelling that typically accompanies autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
The evolution of the autoimmune disease is unpredictable; in some women, the disease can worsen immediately after delivery, while in others, complications may occur during pregnancy. Some women may not have any complications during or after pregnancy.
Autoimmune Diseases and Baby
In some cases, babies that are born to mothers with an autoimmune disease will be healthy and will not be affected by the autoimmune disease. The autoimmune disease is unlikely to be inherited. However, tests have to be performed during pregnancy around week 25 to make sure the baby is healthy.
In some cases, the pregnancy may result in a miscarriage, a premature birth or low weight at birth.