Children of Mothers with Lupus More Likely to Develop Learning Disorders, Review Reports

Children of Mothers with Lupus More Likely to Develop Learning Disorders, Review Reports

Children born to mothers with lupus may end up with developmental disabilities, according to a review of more than two dozen studies.

Learning and reading difficulties and dyslexia are among the problems the children may experience as they develop, researchers said.

The review, “The development of offspring from mothers with systemic lupus erythematosus — a systematic review,” was published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews.

Pregnancy and the period right after birth are risky for both a woman with lupus and her child. Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, puts pregnant women at higher risk of infections, a high-blood-pressure condition known as preeclampsia, and death. A child is at higher risk of dying in the womb, being born prematurely, and dying after birth.

Women who receive proper counseling, and whom obstetricians, pediatricians and rheumatologists work with before, during and after pregnancy, have an 85-90 percent chance of a live birth, researchers said. But parents also worry about lupus’ impact on the child long term.

“Besides the impact of SLE [lupus] on the immediate pregnancy outcome, the question whether their disease will influence the long-term general health and development of their children is often raised by SLE patients who wish to conceive,” the researchers wrote.

To answer the question, the team analyzed 28 studies dealing with the physical, neurocognitive, psychiatric, and movement development of children born to mothers with lupus.

They found that 21.4 to 26 percent more of the children developed learning disorders than children born to mothers without lupus. In addition, 14.3 to 21.6 percent more children born to mothers with lupus had reading problems and dyslexia, especially boys.

Another finding was that autism was twice as prevalent in children whose mothers had lupus than in other children. In addition, the risk of speech disorders tended to be two to three times higher in children born to mothers with lupus, although researchers said the result was not considered statistically significant.

The analysis also indicated that lupus offspring may develop attention deficit and behavior disorders.  Different studies reported a different prevalence for the conditions, however.

There was no evidence that the anti-SSA antibodies associated with lupus affect a child’s growth or  neurodevelopment, or that they lead to attention, speech or behavioral disorders. But one high-quality study showed a significant link between the antibodies and the development of learning disorders among children born to a woman with lupus.

Studies showed no connection between a child’s being born to a mother with lupus and the child’s IQ and movement skills.

“SLE during pregnancy is a risk factor for long-term developmental problems in offspring, in particular learning disabilities (especially dyslexia in male [infants]), attention disorders, autism spectrum disorders and probably speech disorders,” researchers wrote.

They called for controlled studies with large samples of lupus offspring to assess the children’s development during childhood and adolescence. The studies should include a maternal profile, including information on a mother’s antibodies, disease activity, medication and pregnancy, the team said.


  1. Barbara says:

    I don’t agree. I got a soft diagnosis when My daughter was almost 2 and a firm diagnosis when she was in 8th grade. I had complications in my pregnancy but she has had no developmental issues physical or intellectual and just graduated 21 out of 177. My Lupie friends children haven’t had issues like that either.

  2. SH says:

    Both my adult children have a range of learning difficulties. I went through two very difficult pregnancies undiagnosed. Both of mine have good degrees, good jobs had a real struggle with studies. I think there’s something in this

  3. Sher says:

    As a mother with lupus and a son who has autism, learning difficulties and add, I have often suspected this.

  4. Jeanie says:

    I’m glad all went well for you, but my son is dyslexic and has autism spectrum disorder. My daughter has ADHD but does tremendously well in her university. Interesting study.

  5. Amanda Lee says:

    I have Lupus and my sons have Autism. Many, many of my friends who have Lupus also have children with Autism.

    There was research done in recent years which proved the link between autoimmune disease in the mother (Lupus was mentioned in particular) and offspring having Lupus. This article further supports that.

  6. Malena says:

    I believe there is a connection. I have 3 daughters and 2 of them are on the Autism Spectrum. The 2 daughters with Autism, struggled in school. For one of our daughters, things were fine for her in school until the 8th grade. My other daughter, also has a learning disability. They are both adults now and live at home with my husband and me. We are extremely concerned about their future.

  7. Both my sons have anger trouble spelling trouble and can not be told anything it’s not been easy I am an S L E and it’s very different my boys are men now but still the same and it always hits home when things go wrong

  8. Heidi says:

    I have only 2 daughters, both of whom have ADHD. I had a significant (though undiagnosed) flare throughout my 2nd daughter’s pregnancy, and was finally diagnosed just after she was born. I’ve always wondered what impact all of that inflammation during her pregnancy may have had on her…

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