Does Our Immune System Affect Our Fertility

Dawn Davenport


Immunology and Infertility

Does our immune system affect our fertility, and if so, is there anything we can do about it?

It’s hard to think of a more controversial topic in infertility medicine than the immunological connection to infertility. Our guest on yesterday’s Creating a Family show, Dr. William Kutteh, believes there is likely a connection, but he says we don’t know what it is, how to test for it, or how to treat it. Dr. Kutteh is the only Ph.D Immunologist who is also board certified in reproductive endocrinology in the US.


The Patient’s Role

I appreciate the position of infertility patients desperate for something–anything– to work. It reminds me of my interview with Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, who went through 13 rounds of IVF before she finally decided to consider other options for parenthood. (She ultimately adopted a toddler from foster care.) I am sure that if she had heard about testing and treating for an immunological disorder or imbalance, she would have done that as well. Her desperation led to continuing in treatment long past the point that is was reasonable. I get that level of desperation.

I’m not a doctor and don’t know the evidence. Dr. Kutteh believes there is no good evidence to support immunological testing in infertility treatment, and no known effective treatment even if an immune problem is found. What I do know is that patients must be careful that desperation doesn’t drive their treatment options.

Have you stayed in treatment longer than you should or tried unproven treatments out of desperation?


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26/09/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Does Our Immune System Affect Our Fertility

  1. Avatar Lyn says:

    Katherine, that gives me hope! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Avatar Sue says:

    Dawn, you might also want to talk to Dr. Kwak Kim, a lot of domestic and international clinics use their lab for immune testing, and she is probably one of the most well known reproductive immunologists in the US in addition to Dr. Braverman and the Beers clinic. She does the most thorough work up that I have seen and it is often covered by insurance (work up not necessarily treatment)

  3. Avatar cindysn says:

    I def believe it does

  4. Avatar Lyn Jameyson says:

    There are several REs out there who have tested and treated many of their “unexplained infertility” patients. These patients went on to have successful pregnancies. I think for anyone to say that there isn’t a connection or that there isn’t evidence of successful treatment is simply sticking one’s head in the sand! I believe this is the missing link for thousands of women out there struggling with unexplained infertility.

  5. I would be thankful if science could confirm or disprove my instincts. It would be great to know either way.

  6. Dr. Kutteh, also believes that there is likely a connection, but his concern is that there is no scientific evidence of what that connection is, or how to test for it, and how to treat it if we were able to find it. I hope to go to any immunology presentations this year at the ASRM conference.

  7. Avatar DC says:

    The research in this area is fast evolving and the answer is an unquestionable yes the immune system does impact fertility. Dr. Braverman has put some of these pieces together and will be publishing and presenting some of this research in a few weeks at ASRM.

    I am currently pregnant with my second baby under his care after having 8 miscarriages. He is using Neupogen to treat some of his immune patients with great success. I actually found this site looking for information on surrogacy. I’m sure many REs will be paying closer attention once his research is published. He also has his own suite of tests that test for specific immune and inflammation markers.

    • DC, I will try to attend his presentation at ASRM and will be sharing all that I learn with our audience via our newsletter. If you aren’t already signed up, make sure you do at the bottom of this blog. Congrats on your second pregnancy.

  8. Avatar Katherine says:

    Hm, my RE put me on prednisone to lower my androgen levels and also because apparently there is some evidence that an overactive immune system can prevent pregnancy. I had more infections than usual this year, but did get pregnant (twice, one ectopic, the other will hopefully work out!).

  9. Avatar Leilani says:

    It can be caused by a virus that settles in the nerve or stress (so they say). I’ve always thought that maybe my immune system had something weird going on that helped it along. Thankfully I recovered fully BC having half your face not work is scary as heck. This was at the beginning of our IF journey.

  10. Avatar Leilani says:

    I have severe endo but I’ve also had other issues like bells palsy. I have always felt that there is some link there that caused me to be susceptible to both.

  11. Avatar Jen says:

    I am a physician and we did go through infertility, the “unknown” type. I was in my 20s and the REs were very confident I would be successful with IVF, but we were not. I definitely believe this has to do with my very high levels of autoimmune antibodies to the thyroid and probably some other yet unknown/ undiagnosable immune problems. I have a very strong family history of autoimmune disease. Unfortunately knowing that the infertility may be connected to an autoimmune factor still doesn’t necessarily help us to treat it at this point. So, we have 3 amazing sons adopted from Taiwan and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

    • Jen, I think that was Dr. Kutteh’s underlying point. Yes, our immune system likely does have an impact on our fertility and can likely cause infertility, but we don’t know how, don’t know how to test for it currently, and don’t know how to treat the issue even if we could find it.

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