Biologics During Pregnancy: Can They Cause More Infections?

Investigating the Effects of Arthritis Medications During Pregnancy and Beyond

The Problem

Previous research has shown that biologics, used to treat arthritis, can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections ranging from mild to serious. Women often use biologics during their pregnancies, but their impact on mothers’ or their babies’ risk of infection is unclear.

The Solution

Investigate whether the use of biologics during pregnancy results in more infections for mothers in the period after delivery and for babies during their first year of life. Knowing this will ensure appropriate prevention and monitoring can take place.

What the Study will do

Using administrative health data, our research team analyzed how often infections occur in moms around the time of delivery and in babies during the first year of life. The research also determined whether the use of biologics was associated with the risk of infections and if other factors played a role.

The Research Study

This study included women who had at least one autoimmune disease and compared those who took biologics to those who did not take biologics during their pregnancy. The research also studied the babies born to these women.

Results show that using biologics during pregnancy was not associated with an increased risk of serious infections in mothers after delivery or in babies during their first year of life.

Dr. Mary De Vera, Arthritis Research Canada Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator in this research, is currently working on the Following Maternal, Neonatal, and Childhood Outcomes Associated with the Use of Arthritis Medications Perinatally (FAMILY) study, which will build upon this body of research and is expected to provide more data on this subject.

Research Scientist

Dr. Mary De Vera

Dr. Mary De Vera

Senior Scientist, Pharmacoepidemiology, MSc, PhD Associate Director of Training

Dr. Mary De Vera is a pharmacoepidemiologist and health services researcher in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She completed a BSc degree in Biochemistry at UBC and MSc and PhD degrees in Health Care and Epidemiology from the UBC School of Population and Public Health. She also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in perinatal pharmacoepidemiology at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and pharmaceutical outcomes research at UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The overarching objective of Dr. De Vera’s research is to support and inform patient journeys in living with and managing chronic disease. She has a productive research area focusing on two important problems related to medication use – medication adherence and medications in pregnancy, particularly in rheumatology/rheumatic diseases. Approaches and research methods span pragmatic studies in real-world clinical settings and population-based studies using administrative databases in British Columbia (Population Data BC, formerly BC Linked Health Database).

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