From the Journals

Survey finds practice gaps in counseling women with hidradenitis suppurativa about pregnancy



Many women with hidradenitis suppurativa have pregnancy-related concerns that go unaddressed by their doctors, according to a study that surveyed 59 women with HS.

Previous studies have shown the potential for adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with inflammatory conditions such as systemic vasculitis and lupus, but such data on HS and pregnancy are limited, which makes patient counseling a challenge, Ademide A. Adelekun, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues wrote.

In a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology, they reported their findings from an email survey of female patients at two academic dermatology departments. A total of 59 women responded to the survey; their average age was 32 years, the majority (76%) had Hurley stage II disease, and 29 (49%) reported having ever been pregnant.

Two of the 29 women (7%) were pregnant at the time of the study survey; 20 of the other 27 pregnant women (74%) said they had full-term births, 4 (15%) reported miscarriages, and 3 (11%) had undergone an abortion.

A total of five patients (9%) reported difficulty getting pregnant after 1 year, and seven (12%) reported undergoing fertility treatments.

Nearly three-quarters of the women (73%) reported that HS had a negative impact on their sexual health, and 54% said they wished their doctors provided more counseling on HS and pregnancy.

A total of 14 patients (24%) said they believed HS affected their ability to become pregnant because of either decreased sexual activity or decreased fertility caused by HS medications, and nearly half (49%) said they believed that discontinuing all HS medications during pregnancy was necessary for safety reasons.

Patients also expressed concern about the possible heritability of HS: 80% said that physicians had not counseled them about HS heritability and 68% expressed concern that their child would have HS.

In addition, 83% said they had not received information about the potential impact of HS on pregnancy, and 22%, or 13 women, were concerned that childbirth would be more difficult; 11 of these 13 women (85%) had HS that affected the vulva and groin, and 4 of the 8 women who reported concerns about difficulty breastfeeding had HS that involved the breast.

Of the 59 patients surveyed, 12 (20%) said they believed HS poses risks to the child, including through transmission of HS in 8 (67%) or through an infection during a vaginal delivery in 7 women (58%).

The prevalence of HS patients’ concerns about pregnancy “may have unfavorable implications for family planning and mental health and may play a role in the inadequate treatment of HS in patients who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant,” the authors noted. “Family planning and prenatal counseling are particularly critical for those with HS given that clinicians weigh the risks of medication use against the benefits of disease control, which is associated with improved pregnancy outcomes for those with inflammatory conditions.”

The study findings were limited by several factors including “recall bias, low response rate, use of a nonvalidated survey, and generalizability to nonacademic settings,” the researchers noted. However, the results emphasize the often-underrecognized concerns of women with HS and the need for improvements in pregnancy-related counseling and systematic evaluation of outcomes.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. This study was funded by a FOCUS Medical Student Fellowship in Women’s Health grant.

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