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Implications for Children: Mothers Who Develop Autoimmune Disease During Pregnancy

A variety of autoimmune disorders occur in women during childbearing years either before, during, or after pregnancy. When the symptoms and diagnosis come during pregnancy, what are the affects on the unborn child? How about on the child later in life? These are realistic concerns for every woman and the answers from the medical community are vague at best.

If an autoimmune condition onsets during pregnancy, what is the likelihood that my child will develop the condition?

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the majority of the symptoms of an autoimmune disease affect the mother during pregnancy. The maternal immune system becomes challenged, making the risk for infection higher during and after pregnancy. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, placental biology may make maternal symptoms improve with an exacerbation immediately or soon after delivery.

The immediate affects of autoimmune diseases on the unborn infant may be most devastating during the first trimester, causing miscarriage. Later in a pregnancy, the risk to the unborn fetus is premature delivery and the complications that accompany prematurity.

The immediate affects of autoimmune diseases on the baby or young child center around two major issues. One is blood sugar and one is thyroid stimulating hormone. A newborn infant is monitored for blood sugar levels for 48 hours after delivery. It is assumed with the absence of any other symptoms and a normal blood sugar that the newborn has adapted to life outside the uterus.

Children should be monitored for both blood sugar levels and symptoms of thyroid problems during wellness checks throughout childhood, keeping in mind the maternal history.

While the percent of children affected by maternal autoimmune disease remains obscure, it is recommended that children are followed because of an assumed higher risk for developing symptoms with age.

Teens are monitored for autoimmune diseases according to symptoms. The most common symptoms reported are centered on blood sugar and diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism. Research is vague about the relationship between maternal autoimmune disease during pregnancy and teen symptoms and long term research continues.

Are there risks for the pregnancy or delivery that I should be aware of?

The maternal risks of autoimmune disease during pregnancy include exacerbation of symptoms, increased risk for infection, gestational diabetes, and a higher risk of premature labor.

Maternal health is a major consideration and medications given during pregnancy may affect the respiratory status of the newborn.

How can I manage the stress/worry that I will pass the autoimmune condition to my child?

The best way to manage stress during this time is to keep communication open with your healthcare provider. Ask and expect answers to your questions during this time.

Another way to keep the worry at bay is to stay busy with day to day life. Staying active and keeping yourself healthy with exercise, rest, and a healthy diet will keep you feeling your best.

Questions for your doctor:

  • What is the risk to my unborn baby?
  • What symptoms should I watch for after delivery and when I take my baby home?
  • What can I expect during the last trimester of my pregnancy?
  • What is the risk for my personal health during delivery and after?
  • What symptoms should I report to the OB between visits?

About the Author
Terri Forehand is a critical care nurse and freelance writer. She is the author The Cancer Prayer Book and a soon to be released picture book titled The ABC’s of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. She writes from her home where she lives with her husband and an array of rescue dogs nestled in the hills of Brown County, Indiana. Her website is:


This blog post was originally published by, written by Terri Forehand, and first published on Apr 9, 2012 .

This post contains the opinions of the author. Autoimmune Association is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances. Autoimmune Association does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website. Your use of the website is subject to our Privacy Policy.

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