Chorea gravidarum is a term denoting the appearance of non-voluntary, non-rhythmic and abrupt movements during pregnancy, often without an identifiable cause. Antiphospholipid syndrome, rheumatic fever, and use of oral contraceptives are considered as most important conditions that can induce chorea gravidarum in pregnant women. The diagnosis requires a detailed patient history and a thorough laboratory workup.
Chorea gravidarum is becoming a rare entity in clinical practice, but its early recognition is vital in preventing both maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality . The clinical presentation is distinguished by the onset of involuntary, non-rhythmic, non-repetitive and abrupt but brief movements of any of the limbs (known as chorea) during the first trimester of pregnancy   . Based on the extent of body involvement, several forms are recognized - generalized, focal, multifocal or hemichorea (involving only one side of the body) . The appearance of facial grimaces slurred speech and impaired coordination may accompany this movement disorder   . In the majority of cases, chorea is self-limiting, and spontaneously resolves after pregnancy, but rare cases of spontaneous abortion were documented  . Huntington's disease, drug-induced chorea, Wilson's disease, thyrotoxicosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and syphilis have all been confirmed as possible causes, but in the absence of an evident etiology, many cases are diagnosed as idiopathic  . However, history of rheumatic fever (particularly in developing countries where it is widely present) and use of oral contraceptives, as well as antiphospholipid syndrome, are the most important causes of chorea gravidarum, and they are also potent risk factors for recurrence of chorea in subsequent pregnancies   .
The diagnosis of chorea gravidarum can be made only through a meticulous and complete physical examination that will identify the characteristic abnormal movements. A clinical suspicion must be present if non-rhythmic and abrupt movements are confirmed during the first trimester of pregnancy. In that case, several laboratory tests should be performed , in the attempt to establish the underlying cause. Before laboratory testing, a detailed patient history can reveal key information and is a vital component of the diagnostic workup. Previous use of oral contraceptives, family history of diseases in which chorea is a symptom (for example Huntington's disease) or recent infection by streptococcus pyogenes (primarily pharyngitis) and the subsequent development of rheumatic fever may be noted, although only 20-30% of cases have documented evidence of this infection . For this reason, titers of antistreptolysin O (ASO) antibodies, throat cultures, as well as levels of rheumatoid factor (RF), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) and a complete blood count (CBC) are mandatory for exclusion of rheumatic fever as a possible cause . Having in mind the diverse etiology of chorea gravidarum, anticardiolipin antibodies, venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test, anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), ceruloplasmin and urinary copper levels, a full thyroid workup (T3, T4, thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH), and assessment of serum electrolytes (primarily calcium and phosphate) must be conducted    . In some patients, imaging studies of the endocranium, primarily in the form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be of great benefit.