How the Immune System Affects Fertility and Miscarriage

How does a woman’s immune system impact her fertility? Can an immunological dysfunction cause IVF failure, implantation failure, or miscarriage. How is it diagnosed and treated? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Dr. Zev Williams, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia University Fertility Center.

Hit the Highlights
  • How does the human immune system work and how does it affect fertility and pregnancy?
  • Two types of immunological responses that may be involved with infertility: autoimmune and alloimmune (isoimmune).
  • How is the autoimmune system dysfunction involved with female fertility?
  • Is it suspected of being involved with implantation failure of euploid embryos?
  • What are Antiphospholipid Antibodies (APA), Antithyroid Antibodies (ATA/AMA), Activated Natural Killer Cells (NKa) and how can they affect fertility?
  • Is it possible to test for the presence of these antibodies or natural killer cells?
  • How is the autoimmune system dysfunction involved with miscarriage?
  • How do reproductive endocrinologists determine if a woman’s immune system is causing infertility, IVF failure, implantation failure, or miscarriage?
  • Is it possible to treat infertility or miscarriage caused by an autoimmune response in the woman?
  • Has research found that treatment for immunological issues improves live birth rates?
  • What is ACOG’s and American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s position on treatments for immunological disorders for women trying to get pregnant?
  • What are the risk factors that might indicate that a woman may have an autoimmune system problem that will cause infertility or miscarriage?
  • How do alloimmune (isoimmune) disorders potentially impact a woman’s fertility?
  • Is there research that has found that a woman’s body can reject her husband’s or partner’s sperm or be allergic to her husband’s or partner’s sperm?
  • Has research found that if the father’s HLA markers too closely match the mother’s HLA then pregnancy is less likely to occur?
  • How does a woman’s immune system impact embryo implantation?
  • What is the preferred treatment of unexplained IVF failure and recurrent pregnancy loss?
  • How to determine if an IVF cycle failed because of implantation failure?

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Image credit: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences