6. What effects can lupus have on the baby?
Most lupus patients give birth to healthy babies. Babies born to lupus patients have no greater chance of birth defects or mental retardation than those born to women without lupus.
Among lupus patients with anti-Ro/SSA or anti-La/SSB antibodies, the risk that the baby will have neonatal lupus erythematosus is 25%. Neonatal lupus consists of a temporary red, raised rash (usually around the eyes and scalp) and abnormal blood counts; the disease usually disappears by 6 to 8 months of age and does not recur.
Among lupus patients with anti-Ro/SSA or anti-La/SSB antibodies, the risk that the baby will have congenital heart block is less than 3%. Thus, if you carry these antibodies, your obstetrician will regularly check the baby’s heartbeat starting at around your 16th week of pregnancy. Depending of the type of heart disease your baby has, your doctor may prescribe steroids to you in order to improve the outcome of your baby.
Babies of lupus patients are also prone to intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and low birth weight. This is more likely to occur in pregnancies where the mother is either taking steroids or suffering from pre-eclampsia, hypertension, or active disease. Therefore, it is important to undergo regular ultrasound monitoring to detect IUGR in time and manage it appropriately.