Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than two million Americans and most of those suffering from the disorder are women. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, which most commonly affects the small joints in the hands and feet, although it can affect other tissues in the body.
While the disorder generally begins after the age of 40, there are many women who are diagnosed with it earlier in life. If you are one of the women who have rheumatoid arthritis, then you know there are a number of medications that can help control the symptoms of the disorder. However, many of these medications are also dangerous to take during pregnancy.
Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications
There are rheumatoid arthritis medications that simply act as anti-inflammatories. These are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs and they include drugs such as Advil, Motrin, and Celebrex. There are also drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that supress the immune system.
One such group of drugs are the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which include Trexall, Arava, and Imuran. Another group of drugs commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis is biologic response modifiers, such as Orencia, Humira Pen, and Cimzia Kit. These biologic response modifiers are a type of DMARD.
Dangerous Arthritis Medications to Avoid During Pregnancy
It is the DMARDs and the biologic response modifiers that you need to avoid during pregnancy. Particularly, Trexall should be avoided. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for rheumatoid arthritis. When Trexall is taken during early pregnancy it can cause miscarriage. When it is taken later in pregnancy, it can cause birth defects that affect the baby’s bones and brain. Arava should also be avoided and this medication should be stopped before you even try to conceive because it stays in the body for a very long time. In addition doctors recommend staying away from all biologic response modifiers because it is there is very limited knowledge as to the effects these medications have during pregnancy.
If you are taking medication for rheumatoid arthritis and are planning on getting pregnant or have found out that you are already pregnant, then speak to your doctor about the safety of the medication you are currently taking. The stage of pregnancy you are in will be a factor in any decisions made about medications, as some medications are only an issue during the third trimester of pregnancy while others should not be taken at all. You should also avoid these medications if you are planning to breast feed your baby.
Seeing your doctor is particularly urgent if you are already pregnant and taking DMARDs or biologic response modifiers. If you find yourself pregnant and taking Avara, then your doctor can prescribe Cholestyramine, which can help increase the speed at which Avara is flushed from the body. Regardless of your situation, your doctor will work with you to find a medication to treat your rheumatoid arthritis that is safer for you to be taking during pregnancy.