BACKGROUND There is a paucity of data in the literature on the risks associated with, and optimal management of, pregnancy in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH).
AIMS To assess maternal and fetal outcomes in relation to clinical management of pregnancy in a large cohort of patients with well defined AIH.
METHODS A review of all known pregnancies in 162 females with definite AIH attending our clinics between 1983 and 1998, with respect to treatment, natural history, and outcome.
RESULTS Thirty one live births (one twin) resulted from 35 pregnancies in 18 women (seven with cirrhosis). Median age at conception was 28 years (range 18–36). Two patients presented with AIH de novo during pregnancy. At conception, in 15 pregnancies patients had been receiving azathioprine alone or (in nine) with prednisolone, in seven prednisolone alone, and in one cyclosporin. Fetal loss at ⩾20 weeks' gestation occurred in two instances. Flares in disease activity occurred during four pregnancies and within three months of delivery in a further four. Among the 31 children born (median follow up 10 years) only two abnormalities have been identified: Perthes' disease in one and severe mental and physical handicap in a second who was born prematurely following decompensation of the mother's liver disease. Neither mother was receiving azathioprine.
CONCLUSIONS Successful completion of pregnancy is a realistic expectation for patients with well controlled AIH. Treatment options vary, but azathioprine appears to be generally safe and without adverse outcomes for mother or baby. Vigilance is required, however, and patients need to be monitored carefully during pregnancy and for several months post partum.
- liver disease
- autoimmune disease
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↵† Present address: Division of Gastroenterology, Box 3923, Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, NC 27710, USA
- Abbreviations used in this paper:
- autoimmune hepatitis
- aspartate aminotransferase
- antinuclear antibodies
- smooth muscle antibodies
- liver-kidney microsomal antibodies
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