Sunday, July 22, 2012

When Your Immune System Attacks Your Fetus

With my most recent miscarriage at the end of May I decided to get blood tests to see if there was something going on causing the miscarriage. I was certain it was my thyroid causing the miscarriage(s) but my doctor did a number of tests just to be sure, including an Anti-nuclear Antibody (ANA) test to see if my immune system was producing antibodies against itself causing an auto-immune disease that wasn't allowing my body to carry a fetus. Surprisingly, all my blood tests came up fine, including my thyroid, except the ANA. Not only did I test positive for the antibodies but I also had a high titer of 1:640 (a titer of 1:40 is considered normal) so my doctor decided to send me to a Rheumetologist, a doctor who specializes in autoimmune disorders, for further testing. Since I was leaving for Germany I could not meet with a specialist until 5 weeks after the initial blood test and nearly 6 weeks after the miscarriage.

My visit to the Rheumetologist was disappointing as he wouldn't test me for the tests that I had asked him to test me for but he did do the routine tests given after a positive ANA for specific rheumatic auto-immune disorders, like Lupus, as well as another ANA. Just as I had predicted, I do not have Lupus (or syphilis for that matter) but once again I tested positive for ANA. Unlike the first test, this test I had a much lower titer of 1:80, which is considered a very low positive reading. This got me thinking, and Googling, to see if there could be a connection between positive ANA tests and miscarriage. Amazingly, all over the Internet I found infertility/miscarriage forums where women with repeated miscarriages were talking about their positive ANA tests taken directly after their miscarriages with no diagnosis of autoimmune disease. For the majority of these women their titers were only high directly after their miscarriage.

This was all very fascinating to me but it seemed that many doctors did not believe that there was a connection and that the positive ANA could mean that the body was attacking the fetus specifically, not just the body. Some doctors treated the condition successfully with daily doses of baby aspirin. Others added in supplemental progesterone and in some cases, twice daily injections of heparin, an anti-coagulant, during pregnancy the use of which is rather questionable. BUT these actions, in many cases resulted in full-term pregnancies in women who have had many repeated miscarriages.

So, where does this leave me? It leaves me in a quandary because it doesn't explain why the immune system is attacking the fetus and I want to know what is causing this and all my other symptoms of poor health. I could try taking baby aspirin and see what happens but I really don't want to take the chance of another miscarriage because I don't really understand what is going on. One thing I am willing to try is herbal cures. This website recommends specific herbs to help with immunological miscarriages such as Dong Quai and Maca. Other herbs, such as Vitex and Evening Primrose Oil have been shown to help with aiding in the production of progesterone, which is often lacking in women with repeated miscarriage.

Susun Weed, herbalist and author of The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, has recipes for preventing a threatened miscarriage with a number of herbal tinctures. Susun also recommends daily infusions of stinging nettle and red raspberry leaf for every woman, pregnant or not. Here is info that I liked on a natural fertility diet, though I am not a believer in excessive raw foods, protein powders or green smoothies (seriously, no people throughout time have EVER eaten pureed raw greens! EVER!). So there it for thought. I am still left feeling like I have no idea what to do either way.