June 15, 2009

Arthritis delayed for women who give birth

The beneficial effects of pregnancy and childbearing on arthritic conditions may be more long-term than previously thought, Norwegian researchers said.

Dr. Marianne Wallenius, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said

nulliparous women -- those who have not given birth to children -- are diagnosed with chronic arthritides -- including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis an average of 5.2 years before parous women -- who have given birth to children.

Rheumatoid factor -- an autoantibody sometimes found in the immune systems of people with rheumatoid arthritis -- was also present in 37.1 percent of the nulliparous women compared with 41.1 percent of the parous women; although not statistically significant, the difference may indicate that the parous women studied may possess a higher disposition to developing arthritis than the nulliparous women, Wallenius said.

Arthritic conditions tend to occur more commonly in women, particularly those of childbearing age. Some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, for example, can improve during pregnancy, but our study indicates that the processes of pregnancy and childbearing could delay the onset of arthritic conditions, Wallenius said in a statement.

Continued examination of the complex interactions between the female reproductive processes and the epidemiology of rheumatoid arthritis could yield further interesting insights.

The findings were published in the European League Against Rheumatism, the annual congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Copenhagen, Denmark.