Autoimmune diseases and pregnancy: What you need to know

March 22, 2024

If you have an autoimmune disease, you might wonder how it could affect your journey to becoming a parent. Let's talk about what autoimmune diseases are and how they might impact your pregnancy plans.

Understanding autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases happen when your body's antibodies, which normally fight off infections, get confused and start attacking healthy tissue by mistake. Some common autoimmune diseases include:

•    Ankylosing spondylitis: A type of arthritis that affects the spine and can cause inflammation and pain.
•    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which affect the digestive tract.
•    Lupus: A disease that can damage various parts of the body, including the joints, skin, and organs.
•    Multiple sclerosis (MS): A condition that attacks parts of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
•    Psoriasis: A skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin.
•    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A disease that attacks the lining of the joints.
•    Scleroderma: A group of diseases that affect connective tissue in the body.

Other conditions include thrombophilias, which increases your chances of making abnormal blood clots, and thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Thyroid disorders affect your thyroid, a gland in your neck that makes hormones that help your body store and use energy from food. 

Planning for pregnancy

If you're thinking about pregnancy or recently found out you’re pregnant and you have an autoimmune condition, it's important to talk to your health care provider. They can help you understand how your specific condition might affect your pregnancy and what steps you can take to ensure a healthy outcome for you and your baby.

Pregnancy brings changes all around, including to your immune system. While some pregnant people may experience an improvement in the symptoms caused by their autoimmune condition, others may find their condition worsens. The good news is that with on time and regular prenatal care and proper support, birthing people with autoimmune conditions can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. 

Medication safety

It’s important to keep track of all the medications and supplements you take to manage your autoimmune condition, as some may need to be changed to ensure the safety of your baby. Don’t stop taking your medication without speaking to your health care provider or health care team first. Your prenatal care provider and other specialists will work with you to develop a care plan that addresses both your needs and autoimmune condition management, before, during, and after pregnancy. 

March of Dimes' work to increase awareness of autoimmune diseases has been sponsored in part by Johnson & Johnson.