Pericarditis Management in Pregnancy

Quick Takes

  • Pericarditis affects pregnant women similar to age-matched controls.
  • Most cases of pericarditis during pregnancy can be managed medically with careful consideration of the impact of medications on the developing fetus.


Pericarditis is an important medical problem that affects women of reproductive age. While the frequency of pericarditis in pregnancy is not known, pregnancy does not appear to impact the epidemiology or etiology of the disease. Based on case series in the literature, pericardial disease, including pericarditis, occurs with similar frequency in pregnant patients as in age-matched controls.1,2 The evaluation of a pregnant woman with suspected pericarditis should be similar to the non-pregnant patient. Most cases of pericarditis in pregnancy, including recurrent, are idiopathic. The majority of cases can be managed medically. Treating pregnant women with pericarditis involves careful discussion of risks and benefits of different therapeutics to make patient-centered decisions regarding medical therapy. Timing of therapy and dosage of medication should be discussed as indications for therapy and choice of treatment may vary across gestational ages.


The current evidence on management is limited, and no formal guidelines exist for the management of pericardial disease in pregnancy. Multiple case reports and several case series inform management of pericarditis in pregnancy. The largest study is a report of 21 pregnancies in 14 women with a history of recurrent idiopathic pericarditis.3 Another recent case series prospectively followed 12 pregnant women (14 pregnancies) with active pericarditis.4 Based on the data available from these and larger studies regarding medication use in pregnancy, the following approach is reasonable:

  • Women with chronic pericarditis planning pregnancy should be counseled to achieve disease control ideally for 6 months prior to conception.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a cornerstone of management of pericarditis in pregnant women, in the first and second trimesters, but should be stopped before the third trimester to prevent premature closure of the ductus arteriosus.5 There is some controversy regarding periconception NSAID use. While some data say it is acceptable, others suggest it may be associated with impaired ovulation and higher rates of miscarriage.6 Patients attempting to conceive on NSAIDs should review their plan with their cardiologist and obstetrician-gynecologist to best assess the risks and benefits. Low dose aspirin may be continued throughout conception and into the postpartum period. NSAIDs are also compatible with breastfeeding. Ibuprofen is preferred due to reduced cross-placental transfer and shorter half-life.7 Non-selective NSAIDS are favored over the COX-2 selective agents given limited data in pregnancy and breastfeeding with the latter.7,8
  • Colchicine is an adjunctive therapy that decreases rates of recurrent pericarditis (an off label indication for use in the United States[US]), and may be beneficial given that recurrent pericarditis can be seen intra- and post-partum.3 Colchicine was previously flagged as a potential teratogen given its anti-mitotic properties and higher rates of both miscarriage and malformations in animal studies, albeit with doses substantially higher than those used in humans. However, in recent years, reassuring data have emerged supporting safety in pregnancy, predominantly from studies of Familial Mediterranean Fever, a condition frequently treated with chronic daily colchicine. Its safe use during conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding is supported by the 2020 American College of Rheumatology reproductive health guidelines.8-10
  • Restriction of strenuous physical activity while under treatment for pericarditis is recommended by both consensus groups in the US as well as the European Society of Cardiology. While evidence from studies is limited, activity restriction may decrease the risk of complications including the development of pericardial effusion, recurrent or refractory symptoms, or the progression to myocarditis.11 Return to activity in pregnant patients can follow the same general guidelines applied to non-pregnant patients, which typically includes the gradual introduction of exercise once patients do not have evidence of activity disease (including normalization of inflammatory markers without fevers, and absence of pericardial effusion).11,12

Management of Incessant/Recurrent/Refractory Pericarditis

  • Glucocorticoids: Glucocorticoids are often effective when NSAIDs and colchicine have not adequately controlled symptoms and can be safely used during conception and pregnancy. Glucocorticoids should be nonfluorinated, typically prednisone or prednisolone, as their rapid metabolism limits fetal exposure. Prednisone, or equivalent, dosing should ideally be ≤20mg/day to limit trans-placental passage; this dose is also considered safe in breastfeeding.8 Women on high dose steroids may require stress dose steroids in labor.
  • IL-1 receptor antagonists: In cases of recurrent/refractory pericarditis, there are insufficient data on the use of IL-1 receptor antagonists (IL-1Ra) during pregnancy to make a recommendation for use. Case reports and cohort studies, predominantly of patients with cryopyrin-associated periodic fever syndromes, are not able to address whether or not adverse outcomes are secondary to IL-1Ra or to pregnancy in the setting of underlying inflammatory disease. Given this ambiguity, these medications should be discontinued at conception and avoided throughout pregnancy.13,14 While data in breastfeeding are limited, use during breastfeeding is conditionally recommended.8,15
  • Azathioprine, Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG): Although evidence for benefit in pericarditis is limited, both azathioprine and IVIG are safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding.8
  • Methotrexate, Mycophenolate Mofetil: While only rarely used to treat recurrent or refractory pericarditis outside of pregnancy, both methotrexate and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) are contraindicated in pregnancy. Patients attempting conception should discontinue methotrexate 1-3 months prior to conception, and MMF at least 6 weeks prior to conception.8 Both medications should be avoided during breastfeeding.


Pericarditis can be safely and successfully treated during pregnancy and breastfeeding with a targeted approach. Appropriate care of women pre-conception, antepartum and postpartum is essential in optimizing maternal and fetal outcomes. Collaboration with a maternal fetal medicine specialist and a rheumatologist can be beneficial.

Table 1

Table 1
Table 1: Safety of medications pre-conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. Courtesy of Pryor K, Tartar L, Economy K, Weber B.


  1. Serati L, Carnovale C, Maestroni S, et al. Management of acute and recurrent pericarditis in pregnancy. Panminerva Med 2021;63:276-87.
  2. Brucato A, Imazio M, Curri S, Palmieri G, Trinchero R. Medical treatment of pericarditis during pregnancy. Int J Cardiol 2010;144:413-14.
  3. Brucato A, Pluymaekers N, Tombetti E, et al. Management of idiopathic recurrent pericarditis during pregnancy. Int J Cardiol 2019;282:60-65.
  4. Lotan D, Wasserstrum Y, Itelman E, Nir-Simchen M, Arad M, Kuperstein R. Management and outcome of acute and recurrent pericarditis during pregnancy. Eur Heart J 2020;41;ehaa9452157.
  5. Koren G, Florescu A, Moldovan Costei A, Boskovic R, Moretti ME. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs during third trimester and the risk of premature closure of the ductus arteriosus: a meta-analysis. Ann Pharmacother 2006;40:824-29.
  6. Li DK, Liu L, Odouli R. Exposure to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during pregnancy and risk of miscarriage: population based cohort study. BMJ 2003;327:368.
  7. Birru Talabi M, Clowse MEB. Antirheumatic medications in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Curr Opin Rheumatol 2020;32:238-46.
  8. Sammaritano LR, Bermas BL, Chakravarty EE, et al. 2020 American College of Rheumatology guideline for the management of reproductive health in rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. Arthritis Rheumatol 2020;72:529-56.
  9. Indraratna PL, Virk S, Gurram D, Day RO. Use of colchicine in pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2018;57:382-87.
  10. Ben-Chetrit E, Scherrmann JM, Levy M. Colchicine in breast milk of patients with familial Mediterranean fever. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:1213-17.
  11. Grant JK, Shah NP. The impact of physical activity on pericarditis. Curr Cardiol Rep 2021;23:150.
  12. Shah N, Phelan DMJ. Physical Activity Recommendations in Patients With Acute Pericarditis. Feb 09, 2017. Accessed 2/20/2022.
  13. Brien ME, Gaudreault V, Hughes K, Hayes DJL, Heazell AEP, Girard S. A systematic review of the safety of blocking the IL-1 system in human pregnancy. J Clin Med 2021;11:225.
  14. Youngstein T, Hoffmann P, Gul A, et al. International multi-centre study of pregnancy outcomes with interleukin-1 inhibitors. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2017;56):2102-08.
  15. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet] ( 2021. Available from: Accessed 02/20/2022.

Clinical Topics: Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology, Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Dyslipidemia, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Pericardial Disease, Prevention, CHD and Pediatrics and Prevention, CHD and Pediatrics and Quality Improvement, Lipid Metabolism, Heart Failure and Cardiac Biomarkers, Exercise

Keywords: Pregnancy, Immunoglobulins, Intravenous, Ibuprofen, Pregnant Women, Azathioprine, Prednisone, Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein, Breast Feeding, Glucocorticoids, Teratogens, Cyclooxygenase 2, Methotrexate, Mycophenolic Acid, Abortion, Spontaneous, Pericardial Effusion, Ductus Arteriosus, Familial Mediterranean Fever, Gestational Age, Myocarditis, Off-Label Use, Pregnancy Trimester, Second, Pregnancy Trimester, First, Pregnancy Trimester, Third, Reproductive Health, Rheumatology, Placenta, Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal, Aspirin, Pericarditis, Colchicine, Postpartum Period, Cohort Studies, Risk Assessment, Exercise, Patient-Centered Care, Receptors, Interleukin-1, Prednisolone, Ovulation

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