During a pregnancy, the woman has to carry a foetus that is only half of her DNA (or not even if donor eggs are used in assisted conception). The foetus is not recognised by her immune system as safe but still, a healthy pregnancy will allow the foetus to thrive and grow. This is called tolerance. The ways in which the human body adapts for foetal tolerance are the subject of much research and are truly fascinating.
However, much like in an autoimmune condition, sometimes the messaging is wrong. If the immune system is out of balance or in a heightened sense of alertness this may cause the woman to fight off a pregnancy or implanting embryo. This may result in infertility or miscarriage. In some cases, we will hear from patients that everything seems fine with all their other tests, but they have never once had a positive pregnancy test.
Type of immune cells in pregnancy and fertility
The immune system is extremely complex but (very) simply put, you have two main arms of the immune system, namely Th1 and Th2. The Th1 side is a more aggressive side that reacts to foreign invaders of non-self where the Th2 side is more involved with allergies. During a healthy pregnancy, we would like to tip the balance in favour of the Th2 side, which is one reason why women often find they have allergies such as hayfever for the first time when they are pregnant. Women with autoimmune conditions will also often see a period of remission during pregnancy as their immune system calms.
We also have cells called Natural Killer cells or NK cells. These are critical for immune defences also but have found to be raised in women with infertility or recurrent miscarriage. Much debate stems from the relevance of this association. It is argued that the immune environment within the uterus is completely different to the immune system that is represented in a blood sample. It is true that a certain level of NK cells are helpful for conception but it can also be argued that too many indicates an immune imbalance.
Understanding the exact immune imbalance present is an important first step. We have recently launched comprehensive immune testing via our clinic.
The Advanced Immune Profile – Our advantage: Some lab tests measure cell types including including NK cells, Th1 and Th2 balance, CD4:CD8 ratio amongst many others. Others, such as the ‘Chicago bloods’, analyses NK cell activity and your cytokine ratios, that is, the functionality or activity of immune cells. We have chosen to use a lab test that does both. Our Advanced Immune Profile measures a wide range of cell types, plus extra cytokines, NK cell numbers, NK cell type and NK cell activity. We are therefore very happy to provide this highly informative test to our patients. Once we know what the immune picture is like, we can begin to change it and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
Medicinal mushrooms have powerful immune modulating effects. There is much research into this exciting new field and now there are a large number of mushroom supplement products on the market. We use MycoNutri under the training of Dr Trevor Wing in the UK and Dr Martin Powell. It is not recommended to use medicinal mushrooms without having your immune profile tested first. Mushrooms have different effects and it is important to know what cell types you are trying to affect before choosing the correct protocol. In our experience, no two profiles are the same in our patients. It might mean that a combination of mushrooms and nutritional supplements is best or that you should outright avoid some types in order to prevent the imbalance from getting worse.
Who should take this test? Women who are trying to conceive with any of the following:
- ‘Unexplained infertility’
- Failed IVF or ICSI cycles
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Miscarriage following IVF transfer of a good quality embryo
- Women with autoimmune conditions or other inflammatory conditions that are trying to conceive
If you are interested in advanced immune testing: please contact us at email@example.com or make an enquiry online.
Dr Lyuda Shkrobot , Immune Fertility Specialist’ says.. ‘I have worked with a large number of patients who have tried unsuccessfully for years. Once we balance their immune system, their chances of conceiving and staying pregnant increases significantly.’