Reproductive Immunology is a very new arena in the field of fertility. It’s pioneer, Dr Alan Beer, found that there are 5 categories of immune problems which can interfere with a women’s ability to conceive or maintain a pregnancy by preventing implantation or attacking a growing embryo. However the right treatment can allow these women to get pregnant and carry a baby to term.
Unfortunately the tests are not readily available and the treatments are not yet licensed for use for fertility in the UK and very few fertility doctors are trained in the field or know enough about it so the majority of doctors will dismiss it due to lack of randomised clinical trials. However the findings are showing that it is the cause of failure in up to 60% of women who are finding it difficult to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy and the clinics that do believe in it and offer tests and treatments are achieving higher success rates than the national average. Most women only find out about reproductive immunology or are offered the tests after they have had several failed attempts at IVF or 3 or more miscarriages. I want to raise awareness so that women take action sooner.
In my own case, we were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’ following an early miscarriage in Feb 07 but immune testing last summer with Dr Gorgy showed that I have a tendency for blood clotting as well as elevated Natural Killer Cell activity both of which would destroy a growing embryo and cause early pregnancy loss/ spontaneous abortions/ miscarriage. I was lucky to find out prior to embarking on IVF but I still had to endure 2.5 years of monthly disappointments whilst trying naturally which I could have been spared had I had the tests done sooner. I had immune treatment along a cycle of mild IVF and fortunately the treatment worked first time and I am now 18 weeks pregnant with twins. I continue to have monthly blood tests and immune treatment to make sure I carry the babies to term. I am pretty sure without the immune treatment, the IVF would have failed or I would have miscarried early on. I also know of lots of women who after having failed 4 or 5 rounds of IVF managed to get pregnant with their first round with immune treatment.
So if you or a friend fall into any of theses categories:
- Unexplained infertility for over 2 years and are over 35
- Had a miscarriage, blighted Ovum, chemical pregnancy
- Failed IVF cycles
- Poor egg production from a stimulated cycle (less than 6 eggs),
- Secondary infertility following birth of a child
- Have endometriosis or other immune problems such as antithyroid antibodies, ANA positive, rheumatoid arthritis, and/or lupus
my advice is to be proactive and find a doctor who believes in Reproductive Immunology and get level 1 and level 2 immune tests done as it can give you the answer to why you are not getting pregnant or keep miscarrying and it can save you much heartache as well as time and the expense of unnecessary rounds of IVF. The success rate amongst women who have immune treatment is 80% after 3 natural or IVF cycles. If you have time and age on your side you can have immune treatment while trying naturally however due to cost of immune treatment it is advised to combine with IUI/IVF to increase chances of success. In the UK the level 1 tests can be carried out by your GP and the level 2 tests will cost about £1000 however they could save you thousands if they help identify the problems earlier rather than later.
Currently in the UK the following clinics offer immune tests and treatment although their treatments slightly vary:
- ARGC in London
- Dr Gorgy in London – Fertility and Gynaecology Academy (currently most comprehensive level of testing and treatments offered)
- The Lister in London – but it doesn’t offer the full range of tests
- Care in Manchester – recently started offering tests and treatment
- Care in Nottingham
- BMI Chelsfield – Dr Steer
In the US and elsewhere in the world the Alan Beer Centre http://www.repro-med.net/repro-med-site2/ can run the tests and/or advise on participating doctors around the world.
For more information I suggest the following reading list:
Links to websites
Join – groups.yahoo.com/phrase/reproductive-immunology-associates