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A new study that surveyed over 60,000 women found that those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis have more difficulty in getting pregnant than those who don't have the condition. As many as a quarter of women with rheumatoid arthritis who were trying to conceive needed over a year to get pregnant. This is in comparison to 16 percent of women who did not have RA. Women with rheumatoid arthritis also had a higher chance of needing fertility treatment in order to get pregnant; 10 percent compared to eight percent of RA-free women.

When most people think about rheumatoid arthritis, they think of a disease of old age. But rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by a patient's immune system targeting their own joints, affects young people too and especially women. Life with rheumatoid arthritis can be hard. Inflammation of the joints, pain, and eventually extensive joint damage are among the symptoms. The study that looked into rheumatoid arthritis and fertility, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, did not give a definite answer on what caused the trouble conceiving for women who suffer from RA. Is it the rheumatoid arthritis itself, or the medications patients take to treat the condition? This remains to be seen.

The study's lead author, Dr Damini Jawaheer from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California, said: "We do not know whether the longer time to pregnancy is caused specifically by RA or its treatment." What we do know, however, is that many RA medications are contraindicated during pregnancy because they are known to cause birth defects. That is why many RA patients stop taking medications for their condition altogether while they are expecting a baby. Perhaps they should stop as soon as they are trying to conceive? All these factors combined led Dr Jawaheer to conclude: "It may be a good idea for young women with RA not to delay their plans to conceive until the late reproductive years."

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