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Better Treatment Delivers Healthy Babies for Women with Arthritis

  [ 48 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • January 10, 2003

Major advances have been made over the past 25 years in helping to reduce the risk of miscarriage in women with certain types of arthritis and enable them to give birth to healthy babies, reports a leading medical research charity.

According to the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) better treatment has dramatically reduced the risks associated with pregnancy in women with lupus, and associated rheumatic conditions.

Until the 1970s pregnant women with lupus were routinely advised to have a termination because of the high risks involved. Now 75 per cent of women go on to have a successful delivery, although they need special care and monitoring.

And the pregnancy success rate in women with an associated condition known as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which when untreated leads to recurrent miscarriage, has gone up from only 20 per cent to more than 70 per cent.

Dr Siobhan Quenby, a consultant obstetrician at the Liverpool Women's Hospital, said: "Couples who suffer recurrent miscarriage associated with APS suffer severe emotional and physical trauma, as they encounter joy in the initial weeks of pregnancy followed by despair during the miscarriage. I have couples in my clinic who have been through this process many, many times, but once we have diagnosed the problem it's wonderful because we can offer treatment with such a high success rate."

Dr Quenby is being funded by arc to establish the best treatment for women with APS. Patients are now routinely given injections of the drug heparin during pregnancy which has effectively more than halved the rate of miscarriage. Her study is comparing the effects of different doses of heparin and aspirin on the placenta.

Dr Munther Khamashta from St Thomas's Hospital's Lupus Unit, a leading expert on APS who is heading up a major arc clinical trial into the syndrome, said it was a fantastic feeling to be able to help so many women give birth successfully. "Things have really changed in the past 20 years," he added.

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