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Will using your arthritis medications during pregnancy cause you or your baby to have more infections?


Study Title: Perinatal use of immunosuppressant therapies and risk of infections in mothers and babies

Principal Investigator: Mary De Vera, BSc, MSc, PhD, Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada; Assistant Professor, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada,

Start and End Date: March 2017 – February 2018

Why do this research? Existing research shows that certain arthritis medications like steroids or biologics can weaken the immune system, putting individuals at risk of having infections that can be mild (for example, catching a cold) or serious (for example, pneumonia). Some of these medications are used by women during their pregnancies, and currently it is not clear what impact this has on the mom’s immune system or the babies when they are born. The goal of this research is to find out whether using these medications during pregnancy causes moms and babies to have more infections, so that appropriate prevention and monitoring can take place to ensure that both moms and babies can be healthy.

What will be done?

Using administrative health records with approved access from the Ministry of Health and the University of British Columbia Research Ethics Board, we will:

  1. Find out how frequently infections occur in moms around the time of delivery, and in babies during the first year after they are born.
  2. Find out whether the use of arthritis medications is the cause of the infections and whether there are other factors that may be involved.

Who is involved? Our team of 4 researchers are working on records of more than 450,000 women who have had a pregnancy in British Columbia sometime between years 2002 and 2012. Every year, thousands of women with arthritis, or associated diseases like lupus, will have a pregnancy. Our hope is that this research can benefit women with arthritis who are considering pregnancy, to ensure that they can have healthy pregnancies with healthy babies.

Who is funding this research? Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Gillian Hanley, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British, Vancouver, Canada

Larry Lynd, PhD, BSP, Professor Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Nicole Tsao, BSc, MP, PhD candidate, Research Trainee, Arthritis Research Canada; PhD Student, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada