Does rheumatoid arthritis remit during pregnancy and relapse postpartum? Results from a nationwide study in the United Kingdom performed prospectively from late pregnancy.
Barrett JH., Brennan P., Fiddler M., Silman AJ.
OBJECTIVE: To ascertain the influence of pregnancy on disease activity in women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) during pregnancy and postpartum. METHODS: One hundred forty pregnant women were recruited from a nationwide campaign and were followed prospectively in the last trimester and at 1 and 6 months postpartum. Standardized assessment of joint symptoms, examination of inflamed joints, and the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) were the main measures of disease activity. RESULTS: There was only a modest fall in HAQ scores during pregnancy, with >25% of women having substantial levels of disability. Other parameters of disease activity showed a greater trend toward improvement, although only 23 (16%) were in complete remission (no joints with active disease and no therapy). Similarly, there was relatively little change in the distribution of HAQ scores from pregnancy to postpartum. There was, however, a statistically significant increase in the mean number of inflamed joints compared with the findings during pregnancy. Analysis of the possible influence of treatment suggested that therapy was associated with more severe disease and was not related to reduction in disease activity. CONCLUSION: This, the largest prospective study of the influence of pregnancy on RA activity, has demonstrated widespread variability in disease response.