Miscarriages May Be Caused By Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disease in a woman may be the cause of miscarriage according to new research. Study authors are encouraging doctors to test women who experience recurrent pregnancy losses for autoimmune diseases as a way to better prevent miscarriages.
Miscarriages are not uncommon and are believed to occur with as many as 1 out of every 4 pregnancies. Often the woman will miscarry very early in pregnancy, sometimes even before she knows that she has conceived. Although many women experience one or two losses, most are able to conceive child that is carried in a healthy pregnancy to term.
However, in cases of recurrent pregnancy losses women continue to miscarry over and over again with each pregnancy. In more than 60 percent of these cases genetic abnormalities of the embryo is identified as the cause. However, doctors and fertility experts have struggled find an effective way to prevent these types of abnormalities and subsequent miscarriage.
It has been accepted by the infertility community that autoimmune disease has a role in this occurrence, but until now experts in the infertility field have not been able to identify exactly how it contributes to recurrent pregnancy losses.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Human Reproduction, reviewed available published literature on autoimmune disease and is relationship to infertility. What they discovered was that the autoimmune disease in itself can cause genetic abnormalities of the embryo. These abnormalities are then what lead to miscarriage. So, if the disease is left untreated, the woman would continue to have recurrent pregnancy losses.
“Indeed, it is precisely when a chromosomal problem is detected in embryos that we need to look into maternal autoimmunity,” says Dr. David Barad, a study author and Clinical Director of ART at the Center for Human Reproduction. “Especially when a woman experiences repeated miscarriages, her autoimmunity needs to be investigated as a cause.”
Up until now, common practice has been that when chromosomal abnormalities of the embryo are identified as the cause of a miscarriage no further investigation is conducted. The study authors warn that this practice could cause the real reason for the miscarriage to be missed.
"Identifying the root cause is the crucial starting point in miscarriage prevention," said Dr. Norbert Gleicher, the study's lead author and Medical Director of the Center for Human Reproduction. "If we know that autoimmunity is causing a woman to miscarry, there are preventive measures we can take."
Autoimmune diseases are a group of chronic illnesses which are characterized by the body's immune system attacking its own organs. Common examples of these diseases include Chron's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and ulcerative colitis. More than 75 percent of cases occur in women.
Currently there is no standard treatment for autoimmune related infertility. However, aggressive treatment of disease symptoms and suppression of the autoimmune responsive have been shown to be he most successful in preserving pregnancies in women with these disease.
This study was just released in the medical journal Autoimmunity Reviews.