Humira and Pregnancy: Treating Psoriasis When You Are Expecting

Medically reviewed by Mohamed Jalloh, PharmD on July 5, 2016Written by Kimberly Holland on January 14, 2016

What is Humira?

Humira (adalimumab) is an injectable drug used to treat inflammation. This drug was first approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis in 2002. Since then, Humira has been approved for treating two other conditions. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Humira for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis. In 2008, the FDA approved Humira for the treatment of psoriasis.

How does Humira treat psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a common immune-mediated skin condition that can cause scaling or inflammation. This is because psoriasis causes your body to overproduce skin cells. Humira works to improve psoriasis symptoms by reducing or slowing skin cell production.

For a person without psoriasis, typical cell turnover is three to four weeks. In that time, skin cells develop, rise to the top, and replace skin cells that have fallen off naturally or been washed off.

The life cycle of skin cells for a person with psoriasis is vastly different. Skin cells are created too quickly and don’t fall off fast enough. This causes skin cells to build up and the affected area to become inflamed. This buildup may also cause scaly plaques of whitish-silvery skin.

What are the side effects of Humira?

The most common side effects of Humira include:

  • injection site reactions
  • rashes
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • upper respiratory infections, such as sinusitis
  • cellulitis, which is a skin infection
  • urinary tract infections

Most of these side effects are mild. Many people experience side effects shortly after their first dose. In the majority of such cases, the side effects become less severe and less frequent following future doses.

When should I avoid taking Humira?

If you have a serious infection or a recurring or chronic infection, you may need to avoid taking this drug. This includes people with HIV, active tuberculosis, invasive fungal disease (e.g., aspergillosis, candidiasis, or pneumocystosis), or another bacterial, viral, or opportunistic infection.

If you’ve experienced symptoms of an infection such as a fever, trouble breathing, or coughing, talk with your doctor about any potential risks.

Is it safe to take Humira during pregnancy?

Humira is a category B drug. Category B drugs are considered likely to be safe for pregnant women. In this case, the category ranking means that studies of Humira in pregnant animals haven’t shown any risk to the fetus.

If it’s used during pregnancy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor should call the toll-free number (877-311-8972) for information about patient enrollment in the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Rheumatoid Arthritis study and pregnancy registry.

In most cases, women will only use this drug during pregnancy if the potential benefits are much greater than the possible risks associated with using it. The only way to know for sure if you should take it is to speak with your doctor.

Most men and women can continue their psoriasis treatments even if they’re trying to get pregnant. However, once a woman is pregnant, her doctor will likely take special precautions with treatments to be as safe as possible.

In 2011, the National Psoriasis Foundation issued guidelines for treating psoriasis in pregnant and nursing women. Most doctors treating pregnant women with psoriasis generally follow these guidelines. These guidelines suggest the following treatment options:

Are there other psoriasis treatment options that are safe during pregnancy?

Moisturizers and emollients should be used first. After that, low- to moderate-dose topical steroids can be used. If necessary, high-dose topical steroids can be used in the last two trimesters.

Second-line treatment for psoriasis in pregnant women can be narrowband ultraviolet light B light therapy or phototherapy.

Takeaway

Some women see improvements in their psoriasis symptoms while they’re pregnant. Others experience worsening symptoms. Changes in psoriasis symptoms vary depending on the person. They can even change with each pregnancy you have.

If you have psoriasis, talk with your doctor once you know you’re pregnant. The two of you can adjust treatments and discuss what to do if your symptoms become worse. Staying ahead of potential issues and being aware of your options before they’re needed can help you feel comfortable with your treatment decisions throughout your pregnancy.

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