How Psoriasis May Affect Your Pregnancy
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How Psoriasis May Affect Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time filled with a lot of emotion: excitement, happiness, nervousness–and even worry. On top of the usual concerns, if you live with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, you may also worry about how your condition will affect your pregnancy.

Thoughts like these may be running through your head: Should I stop taking my medications? Are they safe? How will my pregnancy impact my psoriasis–and my baby?

To start off, research shows that pregnancy may actually give you some relief from your psoriasis–up to 60% of women report improved psoriasis symptoms during pregnancy. Because of that improvement, many women are able to switch to less-powerful treatments during pregnancy. On the flip side, it can get worse for up to 20% of women, so it really depends on your specific situation. The effect (if any) of psoriasis on the baby isn’t clear, with some studies suggesting increased risks such as low birth weight, but others showing no difference. 

And yet, there’s no need to panic–there are guidelines you can follow to help treat your psoriasis while pregnant. Discover which treatments and medications you can use–as well as which you may want to avoid–for a smoother pregnancy.

Treatments to Talk to Your Doctor About...
Topical treatments. For women with mild psoriasis, experts say topical treatments are the best option to try first. These include moisturizers and emollients, like petroleum jelly or mineral oil. Low- to moderate-dose topical steroids also appear to be safe during pregnancy. If you nurse your baby, however, be careful about applying steroid creams to your breasts, so that you don’t pass the medication on to the baby. And note that one topical medication, tazarotene, isn’t used in pregnancy, because it may cause birth defects.  

Phototherapy. Some types of light therapy–such asnarrow-band UVB phototherapy, broad-band UVB and even sunlight–have the green light. This involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light regularly and under medical supervision–emphasis on medical supervision.  Just be sure to apply sunscreen to your face before therapy to prevent melasma, a condition in pregnant women that causes brown spots to appear. Another type of light therapy, called PUVA, is usually avoided.

Systemics. Doctors typically stay away from systemic medications–which can pass through your bloodstream to your fetus–in pregnancy unless topical treatments and light therapy aren’t giving enough relief. Cyclosporine has been linked to premature delivery and low birth weight, but it can be an option if needed. Oral retinoids and methotrexate are known to cause birth defects and should never be used.

Biologics. Scientists aren’t 100%sure how biologics affect a developing fetus. Research so far suggests they’re safe, but experts still recommend them only when there’s a strong medical need. Since they could suppress the baby’s immune system, some doctors recommend stopping them later in pregnancy and delaying the newborn’s first vaccines. Some brand name biologics are Enbrel, Humira and Remicade.

It’s important that you speak with your healthcare professional before going on or off any medications. With the right precautionary measures and by following advice from your physician, your psoriasis and pregnancy worries can be put at ease.