Relationship between Pregnancy and Development of Autoimmune Diseases
Research has shown that autoimmune diseases have a significant prevalence within the female population, and a considerable portion of women who are mothers. According to Khashan et al., 44.3% of women who develop an autoimmune disease have onset after the first year of pregnancy. During pregnancy, the fetus develops a separate circulatory system, however the fetus’s and mother’s blood often mix. This fetomaternal trafficking is known as microchimerism. Fetal components, such as DNA, may remain in the mother’s system for decades after childbirth, while maternal components remain in the offspring as well. There are certain conditions causing a higher percentage of blood mixing, such as hypertension or preeclampsia. The literature shows that complications during pregnancy can also progress into the development of postpartum autoimmune diseases. When the fetus’s blood mixes with maternal circulation, an autoimmune response is initiated. The mother’s immune system reacts to this blood as a foreign substance, releasing autoantibodies. For example; according to research, scleroderma is one of autoimmune diseases that follows this pattern of development after pregnancy. The review of literature supports a correlation of parity and the development of autoimmune disease. Recognition of this development may provide information of risk factors, development of screening tools, or lead to new evidenced based practices.