Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition of the immune system which leads to inflammation of the joints. Since pregnancy is known to affect the immune system, there can be a direct relation between the onset of pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis.
A study was undertaken by in USA for nationwide prospective analysis of RA, in which 84 patients were monitored for RA before and after conception. The conclusions suggested that there is an inclination of flare up of the disease after delivery. The condition of these women actually improves during pregnancy, especially when it is the time for the 2nd trimester. Rise in pregnancy hormones and anti-inflammatory properties of the globulin associated with pregnancy can bring down the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis.
The fact about pregnancy as the cause of arthritis is not confirmed but there are some conjectures that point to that. It is believed that since pregnancy causes the cell-mediated immunity to decrease, it can be the cause of arthritis. Similarly, the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines being up during pregnancy, it will have an effect on RA. Other conjectures are effect of hormonal changes in pregnancy, pregnancy’s effect on humoral immunity, altered neutrophil function and the degree of inconsistency between the mother and foetus.
The relation between rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy becomes more evident after delivery. The flare up of RA in the postpartum period is due to decrease in anti-inflammatory steroid level, increased levels of prolactin, change in neuroendocrine axis and the shift from a TH2 to a helper T-cell 1 cytokine profile. Whatever be the cause, there has not been any clear link established between pregnancy and how it affects rheumatoid arthritis.
Statistically speaking, it has been found that women with RA have a greater chance of premature births and neonatal problems. The risk of miscarriage and also congenital abnormalities are much higher in women with RA. Pregnancy as a cause of Rheumatoid arthritis may or may not be true, but you can be rest assured that it can lead to complications after pregnancy.
This is a disease which brings severe weakness to a person and if you suspect having it, take advice from your doctor before planning on pregnancy. Contact your health care provider to understand whether you are likely to be affected with the disease with the onset of pregnancy or not.
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