Known problems of the immune system
Abnormal immunological reactions during pregnancy
Abnormal immunological reactions during pregnancy can lead to a variety of complications that may affect both the mother and the developing fetus.
Here are some signs of abnormal immunological reactions during pregnancy:
Recurrent miscarriage (RM)
This is defined as the loss of three or more pregnancies before 20 weeks of gestation. It can often be caused by genetic (fetal chromosomal abnormalities), hormonal (thyroid disorders and diabetes) or immune system factors (abnormal immunological reaction during pregnancy).
There is evidence to suggest that an abnormal immune response may contribute to recurrent miscarriage. One theory is that an overactive immune system may produce antibodies that attack the developing fetus, causing miscarriage. Another theory suggests that a malfunction in the immune system may lead to chronic inflammation, which can interfere with implantation and early fetal development.
There are several immune-related conditions that have been associated with recurrent miscarriage, including antiphospholipid syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid dysfunction. In these cases, treatment may involve addressing the underlying immune condition with medications such as corticosteroids or immunoglobulin therapy.
However, it is important to note that not all cases of recurrent miscarriage are caused by immune-related issues. Other potential factors that may contribute to recurrent miscarriage include obesity, uterine abnormalities, advanced maternal age and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption.
Women who experience RM should seek medical attention to identify underlying causes and receive appropriate treatment.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that can develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys.
It is thought to be caused by abnormal immune reactions in the placenta causing inflammation which can damage the blood vessels in the mother’s organs and cause high blood pressure, proteinuria (excess protein in the urine), and other symptoms of pre-eclampsia.
Abnormal immune reactions in pre-eclampsia may also involve the formation of antibodies against the placenta, which can further damage blood vessels and impair the flow of blood to the fetus.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
IUGR occurs when a fetus does not receive enough nutrients and oxygen from the placenta to support its growth and development. While the exact cause of IUGR is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including abnormal immune reactions in the placenta.
Research has shown that in some cases of IUGR, the mother’s immune system may attack the placenta, leading to inflammation and damage to blood vessels. This damage can impair the flow of nutrients and oxygen from the placenta to the fetus, resulting in slowed or restricted fetal growth.
Abnormal immune reactions in IUGR may also involve the activation of certain immune cells, such as macrophages, which can produce inflammatory substances that damage the placenta and impair fetal growth.
IUGR can lead to a range of health problems for the fetus, including low birth weight, respiratory distress, and developmental delays.
Premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including abnormal immune reactions that trigger premature labor or rupture of the membranes.
Premature birth can be associated with an abnormal immune reaction in both the mother and the infant. This is because the immune system plays a critical role in maintaining pregnancy and protecting the developing fetus.
In some cases, premature birth can occur due to an abnormal immune reaction in the mother. For example, if the mother’s immune system is overactive, it may trigger inflammation and cause the cervix to open prematurely, leading to premature labor. On the other hand, if the mother’s immune system is underactive, she may be more susceptible to infections that can lead to premature birth.
In premature infants, the immune system may not be fully developed, which can increase their risk of developing infections and other complications. Additionally, premature infants may be more susceptible to abnormal immune reactions, such as autoimmune disorders, because their immune systems have not fully matured.
Research has shown that premature birth can also have long-term effects on the immune system. For example, premature infants may have a higher risk of developing allergies, asthma, and other immune-related conditions later in life.
Fetal distress is a condition that occurs when a fetus is not receiving enough oxygen, which can lead to serious complications such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, and even stillbirth. An abnormal immune reaction in the mother can sometimes contribute to fetal distress.
During pregnancy, the mother’s immune system must strike a delicate balance between protecting the developing fetus and defending against potentially harmful pathogens. In some cases, an overactive immune system can lead to inflammation in the placenta, which can restrict blood flow and oxygen delivery to the fetus.
This inflammation can be triggered by a variety of factors, including infection, autoimmune disorders, and other immune-related conditions. In some cases, the mother’s immune system may also mount an immune response against the fetus itself, leading to complications such as fetal growth restriction and fetal distress.
However, it is important to note that fetal distress can also be caused by a variety of other factors, such as umbilical cord prolapse, placental abruption, and maternal medical conditions like preeclampsia.
If fetal distress is suspected, immediate medical attention is necessary to monitor the baby’s heart rate and ensure adequate oxygen delivery. Depending on the severity of the distress, delivery may need to be expedited via induction or cesarean section to prevent further harm to the baby.
If you experience any of these signs during pregnancy, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Your doctor can perform tests to diagnose any underlying immunological disorders and develop a treatment plan to help manage the condition and improve pregnancy outcomes.
If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Life Clinic so that we can answer your questions and offer medical support if required.
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.