Researchers warn against premature dismissal of autoimmune causes in miscarriages

New research at New York fertility clinic Center for Human Reproduction finds that mothers’ autoimmunity can increase the risk of miscarriages through elevated risk of genetic abnormalities in embryos.

For immediate release

February 14, 2011 (New York, NY) – A new research suggests that when a woman miscarries, her autoimmunity (immunity against herself) may be the culprit, even if there are signs of genetic abnormalities in miscarried embryos.

Many doctors stop looking for the cause of miscarriages when genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities are found in embryos. Embryos with significant genetic abnormalities are usually miscarried early, and many doctors think that this is explanation enough, dismissing all other possible causes.

However, according to the new research just published in the medical journal Autoimmunity Reviews, there is substantial evidence that maternal autoimmunity can indeed cause genetic abnormalities in embryos. Genetic problems like these are considered to account for about 60% of all miscarriages. Bringing back a contentious issue of whether maternal autoimmunity plays a significant role in miscarriages, the paper determined that maternal autoimmunity itself can increase the risk of genetic abnormalities in embryos (and babies, if carried to term).

Dr. Norbert Gleicher, lead author of the paper, and Medical Director of the Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) in New York City, warns that dismissing maternal autoimmunity in miscarriage cases can have negative impact on women’s reproductive success. “Identifying the root cause is the crucial starting point in miscarriage prevention,” says Dr. Gleicher. “If we know that autoimmunity is causing a woman to miscarry, there are preventive measures we can take.”

Otherwise, repeat attempts at pregnancy be it spontaneous or through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatments may be futile.

“Indeed, it is precisely when a chromosomal problem is detected in embryos that we need to look into maternal autoimmunity,” adds Dr. David Barad, another author of the paper, and clinical director of ART at the CHR. “Especially when a woman experiences repeated miscarriages, her autoimmunity needs to be investigated as a cause.” The authors based their conclusion on an extensive review of published medical literature.

CHR is a leading infertility center in New York City, with world-wide patient clientele, well recognized for its extensive clinical research program, which over the years contributed a number of major breakthrough to the IVF process. Drs Gleicher and Barad are available for additional comments.

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Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned specialist in reproductive endocrinology, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.