Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is often needed to manage disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) during pregnancy. The purpose of this study was to examine lupus activity and pregnancy outcomes in women with SLE treated or not treated with HCQ during pregnancy.
This was a prospective study of pregnancies in women with SLE who were evaluated between 1987 and 2002. The pregnancies were divided into 3 groups: no HCQ exposure during pregnancy (163 pregnancies), continuous use of HCQ during pregnancy (56 pregnancies), or cessation of HCQ treatment either in the 3 months prior to or during the first trimester of pregnancy (38 pregnancies). The pregnancy outcomes, fetal outcomes, and lupus activity during pregnancy were compared among these groups.
The rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and congenital abnormality were not statistically different among the 3 groups. The degree of lupus activity during pregnancy, however, was significantly higher in women who stopped taking HCQ. These women had a higher degree of lupus activity, as measured by the physician's estimate of lupus activity and the SLE Disease Activity Index, as well as an increased rate of flare, during pregnancy. More serious lupus complications, such as proteinuria and thrombocytopenia, were not significantly higher in women who stopped taking HCQ. Women who continued taking HCQ were maintained on a lower average dose of prednisone during pregnancy.
We recommend the continuation of HCQ treatment during pregnancy. Our findings are consistent with prior reports of the absence of fetal toxicity. Similar to studies of nonpregnant women, the cessation of HCQ treatment during pregnancy increases the degree of lupus activity.