Immune Related Fertility Complications

One of the very significant factors that I face in my clinic with regards to unexplained or idiopathic infertility, is immune system challenges that women and men experience through this crucial period of trying for a baby.

Female and male infertility can be influenced, amongst other causes, by immunological responses which is very common in clinical practice, specifically targeted against ovarian antigens. The majority of the anti-ovarian autoantibodies are directed against β-subunit of follicle stimulating hormone (anti-FSH). This is a common complication that usually is addressed by immune-suppressants during an IVF procedure.

Ovarian autoimmunity, due to its statistical significance, is far more common than Addison’s disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, myasthenia gravis, reproductive or thyroid abnormalities.

Women at risk are women who have miscarriaged more than twice or had repetitive unsuccessful IVF cycles, low egg production or a history of immunological history or even flu like symptoms especially after mid-cycle.

In some women their bodies react to their partner’s sperm. Their immune system creates anti-sperm antibodies that attack the partner’s sperm. This can result in vaginal wall reaction the semen, triggering rashes, itchiness or painful sexual intercourse.

Immunological changes in men’s sperm can reduce male fertility significantly. In the case of antisperm antibodies ( Immunoglobulin G (IgG), Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM), they identify the semen as a foreign substance and attack it. These particular antibodies bind to the proteins (antigens) on the sperm’s head. These antigens are proteins, which appear on the outer sperm membranes as new born sperm cells developing within the male testes. Usually this happens in men with too much stress, any kind of trauma in their testicles, smoking, of any inflammatory presence in the lower colon or prostate.

Herbs for Immunological Fertility concerns

The herbs that I usually recommend according to the individual cases that I see in the clinic are mostly adaptogen herbs.  These benefit a healthy immune system and stress responses within the body, normalising reproductive health. Adaptogen is one of the many definitions for the therapeutic action a plant has.  Adaptogens regulate and adjust resistance levels to stress challenges on a psychological and physical level providing a non-specific but multifaceted adrenal support.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus has been used as a fertility herb for centuries, in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. This powerful herb could increase conception chances by up to 61% according to some research papers. It can also increase testosterone, sperm count and motility. The herb may decrease the effects of sperm antibodies due to its high content in saponins which utilise fatty acids as immune system modulators. Tribulus may normalise ovulation in women especially when taken with Vitex Agnus Castus due to it hormone regulating properties. Vitex is a very helpful herb for hormonal irregularities as it supports hormonal balance in the body by having an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian relationship.

Dang Gui

The root of this plant has been researched to have immunomodulatory effects which encourages a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation and promoting reproductive blood circulation. If taken with Astragalus, (another important adaptogen herb) it can induce cell proliferation, increase illumination of scar inflammatory tissue or residues in the reproductive area.  In addition it helps the liver to detoxify due to its antioxidant qualities and encourages cardiovascular function.

Maca

Maca is an excellent nutritional aid which makes it an essential nutrient to consider for immunological balance. Maca normalises the endocrine system, assisting both the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands which are involved in maintaining hormonal balance due to the stress resistance that it can provide.

Idiopathic infertility especially immune related, is a complicated condition that needs further investigation from the potential parents.  They will need to consider some life style changes, adopt different mind frame and support their own health whilst trying for a baby. There are natural options to consider that support proper function of the body with or without conventional medicine, it is worth identifying possible infertility factors and clear the way to a successful conception.