Rheumatic diseases occur frequently in women of childbearing years necessitating drug treatment. Drug treatment will also be necessary during a concurrent pregnancy in order to control maternal disease activity and to ensure a successful pregnancy outcome.
Survey reviews were carried out on maternal and fetal side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and immunosuppressive agents in pregnant patients. The classic nonselective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not teratogenic. However, when given in late pregnancy they can induce renal and cardiac side effects in the fetus. Similar effects must be expected of the new, selective Cox2-inhibitors. NSAID should therefore be stopped by gestational week 32. Corticosteroids are frequently necessary to control rheumatic disease flares and for prevention of serious organ manifestations. However, due to an increased risk of oral clefts, high doses (1-2 mg/kg) should be avoided in the first trimester. Among disease modifying drugs, sulfasalazine and antimalarials have the safest record. Cyclosporine and azathioprine can be given throughout pregnancy if disease control requires it. Insufficient data exist for treatment of pregnant patients with TNF-inhibitors and mycophenolate mofetil. The severity of the disease under treatment decides if continuation of one of these drugs is justified. Prophylactic withdrawal of drugs before pregnancy is mandatory for leflunomide and the cytotoxic agents methotrexate and cyclophosphamide. Prepregnancy counselling and careful monitoring during pregnancy help to tailor necessary drug treatment for the benefit of mother and child.(Source: Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Immunology and Allergy, University Hospital of Berne, Switzerland, Ostensen M: PMID: 15485116 [PubMed – in process]: November 2004.)