(HealthDay News) – More than half of young women diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have fewer children than they had hoped for, according to a study published online Feb. 16 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Megan E.B. Clowse, MD, MPH, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal observational study in which 578 women with RA and 114 with SLE completed a reproductive-history questionnaire. Participants were classified into three groups: those interested in having children at symptom onset who had either fewer children than intended (Group A) or the same number as planned (Group B), and those who were no longer interested in having children at the time of diagnosis (Group C).

The researchers found that over 60% of women were in Group C. More than half of those wanting children had fewer than originally planned (55% with RA and 64% with SLE). Compared with women with RA in Group B, those in Group A had one less pregnancy, one less live birth, and a 1.5 times higher infertility rate; however, there was a similar miscarriage rate. Among women with SLE, those in Group A had a similar number of pregnancies, but a three-fold higher rate of miscarriage and one less live birth those in SLE Group B.

“More than half of young women with RA or SLE had fewer biologic children than desired. While patient choice plays a role, infertility in RA patients and miscarriage in SLE patients are also important,” the authors write.

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