Fertility and infertility in rheumatoid arthritis.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Despite decades of evidence suggesting that women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have fewer children than their healthy peers, this information is not widely known among clinicians. The causes of decreased fertility in this population have been largely unexplored, but likely revolve around altered inflammation, increased age when conception is attempted, limited sexual function, and possibly medications limiting ovarian function. RECENT FINDINGS: Several large Scandinavian cohorts and a cohort study in the United States demonstrate that women with RA have smaller families and are slower to conceive compared with other women. Personal choice to limit family size plays some role, as does infertility. Sexual function in women with RA is hampered by pain and fatigue, perhaps decreasing the opportunity for conception. Finally, data about the role of NSAIDs in preventing ovulation suggest that continued use of these medications may hinder conception. SUMMARY: Infertility in women with RA is an under-recognized, but remarkably common phenomenon. Although research continues into the underlying causes, physicians can discuss this topic and refer women to reproductive endocrinology when needed, thereby helping patients to build the families that they desire.
Provost, M; Eaton, JL; Clowse, MEB
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