Lupus and women’s reproductive health
It’s important for women with lupus to keep an eye on their reproductive health. Learn how lupus can affect your sexual and reproductive health — and take steps to prevent reproductive health issues.
Lupus and puberty
How does lupus affect puberty?
Because lupus can put extra stress on the body, girls with lupus may start puberty later than normal — especially if their lupus is severe.
Lupus and sexual health
Is it safe for me to get the HPV vaccine?
Yes — and it’s especially important if you have lupus. Lupus can make it harder for your body to get rid of an HPV infection, which could put you at a higher risk of cervical cancer later on.
Most people get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. But if you didn’t get it as a pre-teen, talk with your doctor about getting it now. You may still be able to get the vaccine if you’re 45 or younger.
It’s safe to get the HPV vaccine while taking most lupus medicines, but your doctor might recommend waiting if you’re taking high-dose steroids.
How often do I need to get a Pap smear?
Women with lupus have a higher rate of abnormal Pap smears (a test that looks for precancers and cancer cells in the cervix) than women without lupus. Make sure to get a Pap smear every year. Pap smears can help find cervical cancer early when it’s easier to treat.
Do women with lupus get more yeast infections?
Women with lupus tend to have more yeast infections than those without lupus. This is because lupus and some lupus medicines (like steroids) can weaken the immune system and make yeast infections more likely.
The good news is that most yeast infections are easy to treat. Over-the-counter treatments are options to treat yeast infections. If you’re having a lot of yeast infections, talk to your doctor about your treatment options as prescription medications may be needed.
Lupus and your sex life
People with lupus can have a safe and satisfying sex life, just like everyone else. But for some people with lupus, problems like joint pain, sores, and vaginal dryness can make it hard to have sex or to enjoy it.
If lupus is causing sex to be painful or uncomfortable, there are steps you can take to help. Learn more about intimacy and sex for people with lupus.
Lupus and pregnancy
How does lupus affect fertility?
Lupus and some lupus treatments can have long-term effects on fertility (your ability to get pregnant and have children).
A lupus medicine called cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) may cause infertility, but not in all cases. Girls who take it before puberty usually don’t lose their fertility — but doctors may recommend that girls take a medicine called leuprorelin (Lupron®) to delay puberty while they’re on Cytoxan®.
Cytoxan can lead to infertility by causing premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), which is when your ovaries stop working normally before age 40. This can make it harder to get pregnant, but some women with POI are able to get pregnant with fertility treatments.
If you’re concerned about your fertility or your child’s fertility, ask your doctor about ways to prevent infertility from lupus treatments.
Finding the right birth control
Birth control can help you prevent an unplanned pregnancy — and there are lots of safe and effective birth control options for people with lupus. Your doctors can help you find a method that works for you.
Can I have a healthy pregnancy with lupus?
A healthy pregnancy with lupus is possible — but lupus raises your risk for certain complications during pregnancy. If you have lupus and you’re planning to get pregnant, work with your doctors to plan a healthy pregnancy.
Talk with your doctor about your plans in advance — at least 3 to 6 months before you want to start trying to get pregnant.
Lupus and menopause
Does lupus cause early menopause?
Menopause is the time in life when your period stops. It’s possible that lupus or your lupus treatments could cause you to start menopause early. But the average age when women start menopause (age 45-50) is often the same for women with lupus and women without lupus.
Are my symptoms from lupus or menopause?
Some symptoms of menopause — like hot flashes and body aches — can be similar to symptoms of lupus. Talk to your doctor to figure out whether your symptoms are from menopause or lupus — and how to manage them.
How does lupus affect menopause?
All women experience menopause differently — including women with lupus. Menopause may help ease lupus symptoms in some women, but experts aren’t sure.
Some women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms, like severe hot flashes. But if you have lupus, HRT may raise your risk of flares and blood clots. Talk with your doctor about whether HRT is an option for you.
It’s important to monitor your bone health when you have lupus. Osteoporosis (weak bones) is more common in women, and the risk increases after menopause. Steroids also raise your risk for osteoporosis and fractures. You can protect your bone health by staying active, taking calcium supplements, and getting regular bone density scans. If you have osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Our health educators are available to answer your questions and give you the help you need.