Reproductive Immunology

Reproductive immunology refers to a field of medicine that studies interactions (or the absence of them) between the immune system and components related to the reproductive system, such as maternal immune tolerance towards the fetus, or immunological interactions across the blood-testis barrier. The immune system refers to all parts of the body that work to defend it against harmful enemies. In people with immunological fertility problems their body identifies part of reproductive function as an enemy and sends Natural Killer (NK) cells to attack. A healthy immune response would only identify an enemy correctly and attack only foreign invaders such as a virus, parasite, bacteria etc. The concept of reproductive immunology is not widely accepted by all physicians. Those patients who have had repeated miscarriages and multiple failed IVF's find themselves exploring it's possibilities as the reason. With an increased amount of success among treating any potential immunological factors, the idea of reproductive immunology can no longer be overlooked. The failure to conceive is often due to immunologic problems that can lead to very early rejection of the embryo, often before the pregnancy can be detected by even the most sensitive tests. Women can often produce perfectly healthy embryos that are lost through repeated "mini miscarriages." This most commonly occurs in women who have conditions such as endometriosis, an under-active thyroid gland or in cases of so called "unexplained infertility." It has been estimated that an immune factor may be involved in up to 20% of couples with otherwise unexplained infertility. These are all conditions where abnormalities of the woman’s immune system may play an important role.

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