Sjögren disease may worsen during pregnancy. A pregnant person with Sjögren disease may want to attend more regular checkups with their doctor and closely monitor their and their baby’s health.

Sjögren disease is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that often causes symptoms, including joint pain and dry eyes and mouth.

A doctor can help someone understand and plan for possible risks to the baby’s health. They may also adapt a person’s treatment for Sjögren disease during and after pregnancy to minimize risks to the baby.

This article examines how Sjögren disease may affect the pregnant person and the fetus during pregnancy and after delivery.

It also explores how treatment for the disease may affect the baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding and potential complications.

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A person may want to discuss the possible risks of Sjögren disease during pregnancy with both a rheumatologist and an obstetrician-gynecologist, or OB-GYN.

A rheumatologist is a doctor specializing in inflammatory autoimmune conditions, while an OB-GYN is a doctor who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.

Prenatal counseling

Most people with Sjögren disease can get pregnant and have healthy babies. However, some with the disease are at higher risk than others of experiencing pregnancy complications.

Doctors can help a person understand the level of risk that Sjögren disease presents to their pregnancy and how to plan for possible complications.

Prenatal counseling may include blood tests to check for the presence of anti-Ro (SSA) and anti-La (SSB) antibodies, which are common in Sjögren disease. If a person has these antibodies, they may require extra care from specialist healthcare professionals during pregnancy.

Can Sjögren disease affect a person’s ability to conceive?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no evidence that Sjögren disease affects a person’s ability to become pregnant.

An individual may want to discuss pregnancy planning with a doctor before they conceive, if possible, and use contraception until they are ready to become pregnant.

A review states the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy in someone with Sjögren disease may increase if they can work with doctors to develop an effective treatment plan that can manage the disease 3 to 6 months before conception.

Are genetics a risk factor for developing Sjögren disease?

Genetics are a risk factor for most autoimmune diseases. However, experts do not fully understand the causes and risk factors for Sjögren disease.

The environment and various complex physiological factors also likely contribute to a person’s risk of the disease, and many people do not pass the disease to their children.

Sjögren disease may affect someone’s health, the health of the fetus during pregnancy, and the level of care they require.

Disease activity during pregnancy

Sjögren disease often worsens during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. This is because pulmonary hypertension may become more severe during and after pregnancy, which can complicate the disease.

Pulmonary hypertension is an unusual increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, which provides oxygen-rich blood to the lungs. The condition can cause various complications, including heart failure, arrhythmia, and blood clots.

Monitoring the fetus during pregnancy

If a person tests positive for the SSA or SSB antibodies, a healthcare professional may want to monitor the fetus more closely than usual.

These antibodies may indicate a higher risk of complications that can affect the health of the fetus. However, the risks of complications are small, and the outcomes of pregnancies in people with Sjögren disease can be highly positive under optimal medical care.

Effect of Sjögren disease medication on the fetus

A doctor can help a person determine which medications are safe for use during pregnancy.

They may be able to suggest alternatives for some necessary medications and plan to help ensure disease activity remains low during pregnancy.

Sjögren disease does not usually cause complications after pregnancy, and delivering a healthy baby is often possible.

A person with the disease may want to carefully plan for their and their baby’s care before delivery and have regular checkups with their team of healthcare professionals.

Planning for a newborn’s care

Symptoms of Sjögren disease may worsen during the postpartum period. These can include muscle and joint pain, tiredness, and dry eyes.

Someone with the disease may also experience more fatigue than usual after the delivery, even if their treatment helps manage their condition.

A person may want to arrange for extra help to care for their newborn after delivery. They may also want to attend more frequent checkups with their pediatrician, especially if Sjögren disease results in health complications for the baby.

Breastfeeding and medication

A person needs to discuss their medications with a doctor if they plan to breastfeed.

Some medications may not be safe during breastfeeding, and a doctor may be able to provide alternative options or adjust dosages to be safer.

Disease activity after delivery

Sjögren disease symptoms often become more severe during the postpartum period, which typically starts soon after the delivery and lasts 6 to 8 weeks.

A person can discuss worsening symptoms with a rheumatologist, who may be able to adjust their treatment to improve their symptoms.

Pregnancy and caring for a newborn can be challenging, and managing a condition such as Sjögren disease and its potential complications at the same time may seem overwhelming.

It may be helpful for a person to seek extra help from friends, family, or professional childminders in caring for their newborn.

A person can also discuss adjusting their treatment program with their doctor to help address worsening symptoms.

Eating a nutritious diet, sleeping and resting when possible, and taking medications as a doctor has prescribed may also help a person care for themselves after delivery.

Pregnancy in people with Sjögren disease often has very positive outcomes for the parent and the baby.

However, people with SSA or SSB antibodies have a higher risk of pregnancy complications and may require extra monitoring and healthcare.

These include preterm delivery, neonatal lupus, and congenital heart block (CHB).

CHB is the most severe fetal complication of Sjögren disease. The condition affects the heart’s electrical impulses and causes it to beat irregularly or more slowly than usual.

CHB is a severe condition that increases the risk of mortality. In most cases, a baby with CHB will require pacemaker implantation.

Individuals with Sjögren disease may want to discuss these and other risks of pregnancy with their doctors.

Understanding the potential risks and taking steps to manage them may help someone have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.

Many people with Sjögren disease have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. However, a person needs to discuss the potential risks of pregnancy and the disease with their healthcare team.

The risks of complications may be higher for those with certain antibodies, which a healthcare professional can test for.

People with Sjögren disease may also experience worsening symptoms during pregnancy and the postpartum period. They may benefit from extra child care and healthcare to help them manage the disease and care for their newborn.