Understanding lupus

What is neonatal lupus?

Neonatal lupus is not true lupus; it is a rare condition associated with anti-SSA/Ro and/or anti-SSB/La antibodies from the mother that affect the fetus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts, but these symptoms typically disappear completely after six months with no lasting effects.

The most serious symptom is congenital heart block, which causes a slow heartbeat. This is usually detected when the fetus is between 18 and 24 weeks old. This does not disappear, and affected infants will eventually need a pacemaker.

With proper testing, physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth. Most infants of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.

Medically reviewed on July 18, 2013