Expectant mothers may be able to take certain drugs to treat their rheumatoid arthritis (RA) without any possible increased health risks to their unborn babies, new research suggests.
The study, led by the Research Institute of the MUHC in Montreal, Canada, found that some of the drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could be used by pregnant women.
Currently without a cure, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in multiple joints throughout the body, with common symptoms including painful, swollen joints, stiffness and fatigue.
RA’s general impact on pregnancy
Rheumatoid arthritis generally doesn’t impact the development of the baby during pregnancy; however, a small percentage of women with the condition may be at slight risk of miscarriage or having low-weight babies.
Dr Evelyne Vinet and her team from the Centre for Outcomes of Evaluative Research (CORE) of the RI-MUHC analysed offspring exposed to tumour necrosis factors inhibitors (TNFs), an immunosuppressant RA drug commonly used to reduce inflammation and for pain relief.
What the research showed
Vinet’s team studied around 3,000 children from mothers with RA and a random selected group of nearly 15,00 children over the course of their first year.
In the RA group, 380 children were exposed to TNFs and 3.2% presented serious infections. This number is only slightly above those with no TNFS (2%) and the control group (19%).
The research showed that although TNFs cross the placenta, the drug may not increase immunosuppression or compromise the child’s ability to fight infections.
‘Reassuring to expectant mothers’
Vinet said: “Knowing there is not necessarily an association between infections and these RA drugs will be very reassuring to expectant mothers.
“It is important to highlight these findings so would-be mothers understand they can enjoy a normal pregnancy without being burdened by unnecessary stress.”
She concluded: “However, until further studies are conducted to address this issue, it is important to follow current recommendations when treating women with rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy.”