Women who experience the tragedy of stillbirth are four times more likely to develop lupus later in life
Women who experience the tragedy of stillbirth are four times more likely to develop lupus later in life, research shows
- Experts analyzed the outcomes of more than 100,000 registered pregnancies
- They found a link between stillbirths and connective tissue disorders
- However, the team noted that the correlation with Lupus was strongest
- The first visible signs of Lupus can appear up to five years after the event
- About 1 in 240 women in the UK are believed to have a stillbirth
Women who experience the tragedy of stillbirth are four times more likely to develop Lupus in later life than those who experience an uncomplicated birth, a study found.
Researchers from Manchester found a link between stillbirths and connective tissue disorders – with the association with Lupus being by far the strongest.
Connective tissue disorders affect the tissues that support our organs and other parts of the body.
The team found that the presence of the antibodies that form the first signs of lupus can occur up to five years after a stillbirth, with no accompanying symptoms.
This suggests, they suggest, that many women can get pregnant without being fully aware of the risks – or lose their baby without knowing the reason why.
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Women who experience the tragedy of stillbirth are four times more likely to develop Lupus later in life than those who experience an uncomplicated birth, a study found
“Stillborn leaves behind both a psychological and a biological legacy,” said paper author and midwife Hannah Kither of the University of Manchester.
“This study quite convincingly shows that these women have an increased risk of developing Lupus.”
“Either the stillbirth is the result of underlying immunological abnormalities similar to those in Lupus, or the stillbirth itself causes a cascade of immune responses in the maternal system that culminates in connective tissue disorders.”
The consequences of stillbirth are traumatic – and concerns about complications later will be doubly serious for these women. But we hope that the knowledge gained from this research will strengthen them in the coming years. ‘
In their study, Dr. Kither and colleagues outcomes of more than 100,000 pregnancies, to see if those stillbirth women later developed lupus, connective tissue disease, or autoimmune antibodies.
Anonymized patient records come from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, which collects data from a network of GP practices across the UK.
The team used so-called ‘statistical regression’ to compare the outcomes of live and stillbirths and calculate relative risk ratios.
“Since stillbirth is now a known risk factor for lupus, GPs should be aware of it when they see their patients’ study results,” said Professor Heazell. “Women should also be watchful and watch for lupus symptoms, including joint pain, muscle pain, and chronic fatigue.”
“When women have a stillbirth, they are screened for a range of diseases, but now we know that Lupus doesn’t appear until much later – sometimes years later,” added paper author and midwife Alex Heazell, also from the University of Manchester.
“Since stillbirth is now a known risk factor for lupus, GPs should be aware of it when they see their patients’ study results.”
“Women themselves should also be vigilant and watch for lupus symptoms, including joint pain, muscle pain, and chronic fatigue.”
“About 1 in 240 women in the UK have a stillbirth, this affects many women, so we feel that action is needed.”
“This study strongly indicates that pregnant women should be tested for lupus and other related diseases early on, so that doctors can keep a close eye on anyone at risk during their pregnancy and afterwards,” said Jane Brewin, CEO of Tommy’s charity.
We know that both lupus and baby loss are more common in BAME communities, but previous studies have looked at the link between […] come from countries not as diverse as the UK, so this study gives us important new insights. ‘
That said, we can’t tell if connective tissue disease was the cause or result of stillbirth – so we need more in-depth research to loosen up that relationship, which is why Tommy set up the LIPS clinic in Manchester with Sparks. ‘
The full findings of the study are published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
WHAT IS A STILLBIRTH?
A stillbirth occurs when a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
If a baby dies before 24 weeks of pregnancy, it is known as a miscarriage.
Not all stillbirths can be prevented, but not smoking or drinking, sleeping on your back, and attending all prenatal appointments can reduce the risk.
What are the signs?
Signs may be that the baby is not moving as much as normal.
Pregnant women should contact their doctor immediately if they notice a difference in their baby’s movement.
What are the causes?
Stillbirths do not always have an obvious cause, but can occur due to complications with the placenta or a birth defect.
They are also more common if women have high blood pressure, diabetes, or an infection that affects the baby, such as the flu.
Stillbirths are more common if women have twins or multiple pregnancies, are overweight, smoke, are older than 35, or have a pre-existing condition, such as epilepsy.
What happens after a stillbirth?
If a baby has died, women can wait for labor to start naturally or be resumed if their health is compromised.
Grief support groups are available for parents who have had stillbirths.
Some find it helpful to name their baby or take pictures with them.
Source: NHS choices