More Support Needed for Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Looking to Start Families

May 4, 2022 (Vancouver) – New study highlights need for more support for female patients with rheumatoid arthritis and their partners when it comes to family planning and reproductive decisions.

“Despite advances in rheumatoid arthritis treatment, studies exploring pregnancy experiences of patients with inflammatory arthritis have revealed barriers related to pregnancy planning support, information availability and care coordination among patients’ health care teams,” said Dr. Mary De Vera, a research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada.

Partners of patients with rheumatoid arthritis often take on supportive roles due to the debilitating nature of this disease. So the goal of this study was to explore the perspectives, attitudes and experiences of partners of female patients regarding reproductive experiences and decision-making.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects females and often during their childbearing years. Despite pregnancy historically being associated with disease remission, recent evidence shows that 20 per cent of patients, who have this type of arthritis, experience moderate to severe disease activity during pregnancy, and 40 per cent encounter at least one postpartum flare.

Patients face complex reproductive decisions related to fertility, timing of pregnancy and medication management. The daily impacts of the disease, such as pain, functional limitations and disability, in addition to fear and anxiety related to perinatal medication use, also complicate reproductive decision-making.

“Health care providers, in particular, are positioned to identify opportunities for intervention that involve women living with the disease and their partners to minimize stress and its negative impacts on families,” De Vera said.

The research team interviewed 10 male participants with a mean age of 35. Fifty per cent were married to their partner with rheumatoid arthritis, 40 per cent had at least one child with their partner, and 40 per cent did not desire additional children.

Researchers then identified four stages of reproductive decision-making experienced by partners: (1) developing an understanding of the disease, (2) contemplating future family decision-making, (3) initiating reproductive decision-making with partner, and (4) reflecting on past reproductive experiences.

“Understanding the needs of couples making reproductive decisions is important in providing the highest quality care possible for women living with rheumatoid arthritis,” De Vera said. “Health care providers, including rheumatologists, can play a supportive role by providing resources regarding medication use and more so that couples can make informed decisions.”

To learn more about this research, please click here.

The research team has also done a study examining how female patients with rheumatoid arthritis form decisions about having children, pregnancy and medication use. Click here to learn more about that research.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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