Women with lupus can have healthy pregnancies

Sometimes Emily Greenwell can't believe she gave birth to this beautiful baby boy named Finley.

"Nine pounds and he was 22 and a quarter inches long."

Emily has lupus: a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage the skin, joints and organs. It can also cause inflammation.

"We'll see kidney inflammation which can cause kidney failure in some situations," says Dr. Megan Clowse, an associate professor of rheumatology and immunology.

That's why Clowse says for years women with lupus were warned not to get pregnant because they would have to stop the medications that controlled the disease.

"I think now we have come to sort of a new approach to lupus pregnancy management," she says.

She says keeping lupus well-controlled during pregnancy is key.

"My approach here at Duke, I continue almost everybody on hydroxychloroquine."

Also known as plaquenil, Clowse says the drug has been shown to be safe during pregnancy.

"I have managed about 150 lupus pregnancies over the past decade. We have probably about 30 percent of our pregnancies deliver early."

She says those pre-term births tended to occur in women who got pregnant while their lupus was active.

"So in my experience plan the lupus pregnancies!"

Emily Greenwell was carefully monitored by her doctor the entire time. Now the proud parents of a healthy baby boy, she and her husband Moxie say despite the lack of sleep it's all worth it!

Medical experts say if you have lupus and get pregnant unexpectedly, call your doctor's office right away and tell them the medications you are taking - because some may cause birth defects and should be stopped immediately.
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