A new study published in the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) journal, Arthritis Care & Research, reveals that women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were on methotrexate (MTX), a drug commonly used to reduce inflammation caused by RA, had lower rates of induced abortions compared to women with RA who were not exposed to the medication. Findings indicate that women with RA exposed to anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drugs may have increased abortion rates compared to unexposed women.
Experts estimate that 1.3 million U.S. adults have RA-an inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the lining of the joints causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and ultimately may lead to loss of joint function. RA can affect women during their reproductive years, placing them at risk for unplanned pregnancies. In fact, one study has shown that up to half of pregnancies in North America are unplanned, and nearly half of these unintended pregnancies are terminated.
A 2003 study by Chakravarty et al. found that while 96% of rheumatologists in the U.S. had recommended birth control to female RA patients of childbearing age who were starting MTX, only 55% followed-up with patients regarding their use of contraceptives. "Women with RA who become pregnant may have disease-specific reasons which might influence their decision to end a pregnancy. Exposure to teratogenic drugs, such as MTX, which can affect the development of the fetus, is one such reason women with RA may choose an induced abortion," explains lead author, Dr. -velyne Vinet, from the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Canada.