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Reproductive Immunology

Reproductive immunology looks at how the immune system reacts when a woman becomes pregnant. Your immune system keeps you healthy by identifying and fighting off any foreign cells it doesn't recognise because they don't share the same genetic code as the rest of the cells in the body. Although an embryo is genetically different to the mother, a unique immunological adaptation takes place to allow the embryo to implant and the immune system learns to tolerate it. If this adaptation is impaired, it may lead to difficulty conceiving or cause miscarriage.

When might me suggest reproductive immunology?

  • If you have experienced recurrent miscarriage
  • If you have had previous unsuccessful cycles of IVF
  • If you have a history of immune disorders (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, or psoriasis)
  • If you have had previous pregnancies with placenta related complications such as pre-eclampsia, premature delivery or fetal growth restriction

Immune testing

We’ll first carry out some tests to find out if immunology treatments could help you to conceive. This includes:

  • Screening for auto-immune antibodies
  • Natural Killer (NK) cell assay – NK cells are a type of white blood cell that protect us from bacteria and viruses and other invaders. Some research has suggested that raised NK levels in the blood and the endometrium may be associated with IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage
  • TH1/TH2 intracellular cytokine ratios. Cytokines are chemical messengers produced by your immune cells. Cytokines produced by TH2 immune cells are thought to support pregnancy whereas the cytokines produced by TH1 immune cells may inhibit pregnancy. For successful pregnancy, TH2 cytokines should be dominant.

Immune treatment

We offer a range of treatment options to help, all specifically tailored to the findings of your own investigations, and may include:

  • treatment with heparin to moderate blood clotting and the immune response
  • steroid treatment to dampen the inflammatory response.
  • low dose aspirin
  • intravenous intralipid infusion

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