Reproductive immunology might not be a field of medicine you’re familiar with. However, if you are struggling with infertility, it’s definitely worth exploring. This area of medicine examines the interactions between the reproductive and immune systems.
In general, your immune system may view an embryo as some sort of invader and react accordingly by doing what it can to stop the growth of embryonic cells. Many types of immune treatments are now being used in reproductive medicine to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation to support successful pregnancy outcomes.
When To Consider Reproductive Immunology
The experienced team at Tripod Fertility will review your specific history to determine whether immune treatments may benefit you. However, for a general idea of who might benefit from this type of treatment, consider whether you’ve experienced any of the following scenarios:
• More than one miscarriage or IVF failure, especially if this happened after reaching the age of 35
• Past or present immunological problems, as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
• Inadequate egg production from a stimulated cycle
• Previous pregnancies with abnormal fetal growth
• Multiple miscarriages when trying to have a second child after successfully having a first child
• A blighted ovum
Reproductive Immunology Testing and Immune Treatment
There are several tests that could help your medical team identify just how to treat your immune-related fertility or pregnancy issues. The type of testing you will undergo will depend on your medical history and other personal factors.
Initial testing often includes a Leukocyte Antibody Detection Test. This test measures the level of antibody reaction in your body to blood cells that are not yours, such as your male partner’s blood cells. These antibodies appear to be protective while you are pregnant, and women who have a history of miscarriages or implant failures often have low levels of this antibody.
If you have low antibody levels, you may need to undergo Lymphocyte Immunization Therapy. In this procedure, white blood cells from your male partner are injected into your skin to prepare your immune system for pregnancy.
Another test you may undergo is for natural killer cells. Despite the name, these cells are a necessary part of your immune system. There is a wide variety of these types of cells, but when it comes to fertility, the main two of concern are the peripheral natural killer cells (pNK) and the uterine natural killer cells (uNK).
Your pNK cells circulate in your bloodstream and identify foreign “invaders” that could threaten your body. With these invaders labelled, they can then be destroyed. uNK cells don’t have this “killer” power but do play a crucial role in the preparation of the endometrium for pregnancy. If you have levels of natural killer cells that concern your fertility team, they will advise you on the best course of action for your treatment.
While your immune system plays a very crucial role in keeping you healthy, it can have a negative impact on your chances of becoming pregnant in some cases. Tripod Fertility is here to help identify the root cause of your fertility or pregnancy issues and work with you toward a successful pregnancy outcome.