‘HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AFFECTS PREGNANCY’ (Fertility Magazine)
A 3-page special article, reporting on an interview with Life Clinic’s founder, Dr Dimitri Papanikolaou has just been published in the Gonimotita’ (Fertility) magazine. (Issue 11, December 2022). The interview raises the importance of the immune system with regards to it’s affects on pregnancy.
The Gonimotita Fertility Magazine is a Greek periodical with a special interest in fertility and investigates, through interviews with leading IVF specialists, topical issues related to all things fertility including Medicine, Psychology, Legal Issues, Nutrition, Fitness, Tourism and much more.
The article is written in Greek. A translation of the article is available below.
HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AFFECTS PREGNANCY DR. DIMITRIS P. PAPANICOLAOU MD DFFP
Specialized in Assisted Reproduction and Endoscopic Surgery
- curator of Ninewells University Hospital, Dundee
- Clinical Associate of the London Fertility Centre
- Deputy Director of the Assisted Reproduction Gynecology center London ARGC Centre
Member of the Society of Independent Gynecologists & Obstetricians (London)
In recent years the role and importance of the immune system has been increasingly recognized, both in the successful implantation of the embryo and in its safe progress and development during pregnancy.
It is known that every woman’s immune system “weakens” when she is pregnant, due to a normal suppression of it. This has as a result, on the one hand, the protection of the fetus (although it is considered by the woman’s body as a foreign body, and reacts against it normally, especially in the early stages of pregnancy), and on the other hand, the ease of development of harmless micro-organisms. – infections throughout pregnancy.
This “normal” state of the immune system results in a safe pregnancy and a healthy child in most cases. More specifically, the reaction of the immune system of each pregnant woman against the fetus is not limited only to the initial stages of implantation, but also continues during pregnancy, while it most likely plays an important role in the process of starting labor .
Nevertheless, in some women, for various reasons, their immune system does not show the normal response (suppression) and continues to overreact, resulting in a sometimes different, but almost continuous, attack against the fetus.
Attacks come in waves and are probably stronger at night. The reaction begins at the moment of implantation and in most cases is recognized in some way by the woman (consciously or unconsciously). The degree and outcome of the reaction varies between different pregnancies of the same woman, indicating the importance of the fetus in this reaction. Thus, usually women with obvious autoimmune diseases find it difficult to conceive and maintain a pregnancy.
But what are the effects of a disordered immune system on pregnancy?
In the early stages of pregnancy in most cases, the increased reaction to the fetus results in an early miscarriage. Until then, the fetus is usually seen to have reduced growth in the womb, an abnormal sac and an abnormal heart rate, while the mother notices period-like symptoms.
In later stages of pregnancy, if the fetus survives 12 weeks, the chances of miscarriage decrease. However, continued immune attacks against the placenta can lead to placental dysfunction and premature aging, with consequent reduction in fetal growth rate. In most cases, this reduced growth continues at varying rates, depending on the degree of reaction. This causes a condition called IUGR and/or premature labor (mainly with premature rupture of membranes) and can even lead to intrauterine death at times.
In general, during pregnancy, these women can more easily develop autoimmune complications, such as high blood pressure, skin reactions, frequent minor vaginal infections, thyroid dysfunction, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, and eclampsia. silence
After birth, the immune system, which up to that point has been suppressed, suddenly goes into overdrive in order to return to the pre-pregnancy state.
This reaction is unnoticed by most women after childbirth. However, some have an excessive reaction that affects their body and makes their daily life difficult. This condition will subside after a few months. Recovery for these women is generally more difficult and some of them find it difficult to cope with their motherly duties in the first months.
Aggravating symptoms are often related to their bones and muscles (pain and stiffness), as well as mental fatigue and other autoimmune reactions (skin and thyroid).
However, women of childbearing age who face the challenges of infertility now get pregnant more easily after being treated for their autoimmune problems with specific drugs (anti TNF) during this time. Consequently, thousands of cases are now successfully treated, cases of individuals or couples who were trapped in vicious cycles of effort, simply because they did not receive the right guidance that could solve their problem simply and immediately.
Life Clinic is an infertility, IVF and Gynaecological Clinic in Athens, Greece, with top success rates and specialisation in immunological disorders and unexplained infertility.
We offer IVF, Egg Donation, Embryo Donation, Egg freezing, PGD/PGS and extensive investigation, treatment and monitoring for the immunological disorders that affect fertility.
Life Clinic is lead by Dimitri Papanikolaou, Obstetrician Gynaecologist specialised in Reproductive Medicine and Reproductive Immunology.