UWS research to help women with rheumatoid arthritis make decisions about pregnancy

Date: 09/11/2009

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney will examine the attitudes, emotions and decision-making processes of women who are living with rheumatoid arthritis and are hoping to become pregnant.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a serious, chronic condition in which the body's immune system attacks healthy tissue in the joints, leading to pain in the hands, wrists, knees or feet and eventually irreversible physical disability.

Dr Tanya Covic, from the School of Psychology at UWS, says women with RA are less likely to have children if they are diagnosed with the illness during their childbearing years.

"This may be due to women's concerns that pregnancy will further impair their already RA-affected health, or that the baby will inherit the illness or be adversely exposed to the medications," says Dr Covic.

"Women may also make a conscious decision not to have children out of concern that their RA will make it difficult to be an active mother."

According to Dr Covic, there is a general lack of information available to inform women about the health issues associated with RA and pregnancy.

Drawing on research evidence and expert advice from relevant health professionals, as well as the experiences of women living with RA, the UWS research project will work to develop a pregnancy Decision Aid resource.

The Decision Aid will provide women with balanced information on the benefits and risks of pregnancy and RA and the level of support they may need so that they can confidently make informed choices about their future.

"Women may think that they only have two choices, to have or not to have children. However, if provided with the relevant information, they may find there are more options to be considered," says Dr Covic.

"We hope that the Decision Aid will help women consider all of their options and decide on the one that is best for them."

Women living with RA between the ages of 18 and 45 are invited to take part in the study. For more information, contact Lisa Hallab on (02) 9772 6801, or l.hallab@uws.edu.au.

The project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), supported by Arthritis NSW, and will be conducted with research collaborators from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne.



Media Officer

Danielle Roddick
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