Fertility comes down to many factors, one of them being the state of our immune system. This may seem odd, but the dynamic between the immune system, the sperm and a new fetus is crucial for pregnancy. 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. This story goes beyond our hormonal health. If you’re suffering from infertility or miscarriages, your immune system may hold the missing piece of the puzzle.
Practice Makes Perfect Babies
There is more to semen than just fertilizing eggs. Semen actually prepares the female body for pregnancy. It does this by familiarizing the immune system with its DNA, which will later be part of the baby. In other words, the more sex we have the more the woman’s immune system becomes accepting of the sperm, and the higher the possibility of a healthy pregnancy.
Researcher Sarah Roberson from the University of Adelaide, Australia found the more mice have sex, the more regulatory T-cells were released in the female. These particular T-cells are known to dampen down the inflammatory response of the immune system.
The team discovered a woman’s cervix begins to release immune signalling molecules shortly after sex. This may be an early sign of increased levels of regulatory T-cells. As well as increasing the possibility of the fertilized egg implanting in the womb, this may well help prevent the body from rejecting the fetus later on in the pregnancy. Women who conceive after limited sexual activity and have a low T-cell count have an increased risk of unexplained infertility, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and pre-term labour.
The more practice you have before fertilisation, the higher the chances of having a healthy baby.
Infertility from Semen Attack
Whether you are male or female you could have an allergy to sperm. A healthy immune response would only identify and launch an attack on something pathogenic (harmful) such as a virus, parasite or bacteria.
In a man’s body, the testicles are designed to keep the sperm away from the rest of the body, including the immune system. If the sperm comes into contact with the man’s immune system they are identified as ‘the enemy’, and the immune system develops an allergy to the sperm. This can happen if the testes have been injured, from a prostate infection, or after surgery.
Over 70% of all men who get a vasectomy will develop anti-sperm antibodies. This is something important to considering having children in the future. The longer a man waits to get a vasectomy reversal, the higher the effectiveness of the anti-sperm antibody.
If the woman is suffering from an autoimmune disorder or allergies, her immune system may mis-identify the semen as a harmful invader and launch an attack on the sperm.
An anti-sperm antibody test looks for antibodies (proteins) that are programmed to attack a man’s sperm. These antibodies can be found either within the semen, or in the woman’s blood or vaginal fluids.
According to Professor Patrick Bouic, teacher of immunology at Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, if one has Leaky Gut Syndrome or an autoimmune disorder, the body is functioning protective overdrive. The woman’s immune system will attack any new substance it considers an invader. This includes a new embryo. As the embryo now contains the fathers ‘foreign’ DNA, the immune system will break down the new arrival.
Leaky gut literally means particles are leaking through the gut wall directly into the blood stream. These foreign invaders trigger a full-blown immune response, where antibodies are created for each particle. This includes foods that make it into the blood stream. When the immune system has been bombarded for long enough it becomes over-stimulated and begins attacking things it shouldn’t, including bodily tissue.
Baby Meet Immune System
Once conception has occurred the embryo needs to get a signal to the mothers immune system expressing it isn’t a foreign invader. The signal sent by the embryo is an antigen called HLA G. If the mother’s immune cells do not respond to the healthy signal of HLA G antigen the mother’s immune cells attack the embryo. There are a series of blood tests that can be performed to determine which immune cells are malfunctioning.
People with the following indications may want to consider getting testing by a Reproductive Immunologist such as Professor Bouic. A Reproductive Immunologist differs from a Gynecologist in that they can determine if your body may be having an immunological response towards the sperm or fetus and help you to reverse the issue.
It’s worth getting tested if you suffer from:
- Failed IVF
- Blighted ovum
- Autoimmune syndrome
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Unexplained Infertility diagnosis
Reversing Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Syndromes
Today we now know that leaky gut is the foundation to autoimmune syndromes, both of which are on the rise. One may spend years suffering from leaky gut or in an autoimmune state without realizing it.
The good news is Functional Medicine doctors now have the knowledge and skills to help you reverse these issues. The first point of call is to cut out the foods that are aggravating the leaky gut syndrome, such as gluten. And start taking a regular dose of live probiotics to help heal the gut wall.
In the case of recurrent miscarriage due to immunological response, researchers have found that enzymes can be used as part of an effective treatment. Enzymes work to stabilize and promote proper function of the immune system. Systemic Enzyme Therapy, when used throughout pregnancy stabilizes the mother’s immune system, allowing for a healthy full term pregnancy with no adverse effects to the mother or child.