According to a new study, pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk for giving birth prematurely. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic joint inflammation. The study found no link between fathers with rheumatoid arthritis and preterm birth risk.
In other words, researchers from Denmark and the United States found that babies of women with RA or pre-clinical RA (the period prior to symptoms) are 1.5 times more likely to be born prematurely. The findings indicate that body measurements of the baby at birth were only slightly lower in children exposed to maternal or preclinical RA compared to those with no exposure to the disease.
RA affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United States, according to the Arthritis Foundation. RA causes chronic inflammation in the joints and has been linked to a variety of pregnancy conditions like preterm birth and low birth weight.
Lead researcher Ane Rom, MPH, from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark examined data from 1.917,723 Danish children born between 1977 and 2008. The findings said that children born to mothers with RA had similar birth length and abdominal circumference compared to those born to maters without RA. More precisely, compared with children born to mothers without RA, those born to mothers with maternal RA were 1.48 times more likely to be delivered preterm, while those born to mothers with preclinical RA were 1.32 times more likely to be born prematurely.
However, babies born to mothers with RA were on average 87 grams lighter and had placentas that were on average 14 grams lighter than those born to mother without the inflammatory disease. The study revealed similar result in babies born to mothers with preclinical RA. “Obstetricians should be aware of the increased risk of preterm birth in women with RA and among those with preclinical signs of the disease,” Rom said in a news release.
“For women with RA, we found only a small reduction in fetal growth in their babies, which has little impact on the children immediately following birth. The long term health effects for children born to mothers with RA need further investigation,” Rom added.
Among almost 2 million singleton births during the study period, 2,101 of the offspring were considered exposed to maternal RA, 11,455 were exposed to preclinical maternal RA, and 1,086 were exposed to paternal RA.