RA and pregnancy

While reading through the scientific literature on RA (before we started our own project), I was struck by the fact an incurable and disabling disease like RA could improve naturally during pregnancy. This meant that while existing medications were associated with serious side effects and were ineffective in up to 30% of patients, “nature” had a way of making women with RA feel all better during pregnancy, without any side effects! This natural improvement of RA was studied and first reported in 1938 by Dr. Philip Hench, who proposed that it could be due to an as yet unidentified “anti-rheumatic Substance X” being produced during pregnancy. Dr. Hench’s research later led to the discovery of corticosteroids as a treatment for RA, a discovery for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1950. Here is a copy of his 1950 Nobel lecture. However, it was later found that corticosteroids do not explain the natural improvement of RA during pregnancy. Today, almost 78 years (!) after Dr. Hench’s first paper was published on the topic, the identity of the mysterious pregnancy-induced anti-rheumatic substance X still remains unsolved...