Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. This is my second post about infertility and we will be talking about how autoimmune diseases can cause it. This series is not meant to be an all exclusive list of things that can cause infertility. In fact, these may not even be the most common causes of infertility. However, these are absolutely some of the most commonly missed causes of it. If you start punching in things like “natural fertility treatments” into google it does not take you long to bring up articles about progesterone and natural herbs like Chasteberry or Don Quai or Shepherd’s Purse or Tribulus that can help with both male and female hormone imbalances. Looking at hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are extremely important if you are struggling with infertility. If you have not had anyone explore this avenue with you, then please first go down that road. Most of my patients have already been down the road of progesterone shots, or IVF, or other natural remedies aimed at progesterone or testosterone or estrogen.
We talked in our last post about how I often see patients who have infertility as a result of hypothyroidism. On top of a disturbance of thyroid hormones causing infertility, remember most thyroid problems are caused by an autoimmune disease. We are now beginning to understand that any autoimmune disease can cause infertility! Let’s take a look at three different ways in which an autoimmune disease may cause infertility.
- Some autoimmune diseases can directly impact our reproductive organs. Do you realize that you can be autoimmune to your ovaries or testicles? It should not come as a surprise that Ovarian and Testicular Antibodies are associated with infertility. If your body is attacking the ovaries you may have difficulty producing hormones like progesterone or estrogen, or you might have difficulty with ovulation. If you are a male and attacking your testicles it could alter sperm counts and function and could also create problems producing testosterone. As common sense as this sounds, it is fairly new to the medical community and many people struggling with infertility have never been tested for antibodies to things like ovaries or testicles.
- Another common autoimmune cause of infertility are those which cause blood clotting disturbances. Anti-phospholipid syndrome and LUPUS are probably your most famous autoimmune disorders that cause disturbances in blood flow causing miscarriages. Further research has started to determine subtypes of testing for these clotting disorders and there is promise surrounding a clotting marker caused “Factor XII” that is highly associated with both Anti-phospholipid syndrome and LUPUS .
- It is fairly straight forward to look at how an autoimmune attack against the ovaries could diminish ovarian hormone production causing infertility. However, other studies show us that other, more general, autoimmune attacks are involved with infertility. A study published in the journal Human Reproduction looked at patients who had failed in-vitro fertilization and tested them for various autoimmune markers including markers for LUPUS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Thyroid disease. The researchers found autoantibodies positive in 22% of the group compared to controls where only 2.5% showed positive antibodies. The researchers conclude “The high occurrence of autoantibodies…could imply that these autoantibodies may be one of the possible causes of IVF failure in either mechanical or unexplained infertility” . It is important to remember that even with our amazing advances in medicine in the past 100 years, we still do not know everything. As autoimmune disease research expands we are learning that often people with 1 autoimmune disease have other autoimmune diseases. This kind of research helps us realize that if you have an autoimmune disease of any kind, you may have other autoimmune reactions that we can’t even test for yet causing infertility. Therefore, autoimmunity needs to be considered as a possible cause for infertility.
In our office, we run an autoimmune panel from cyrex labs called array 5. It runs multiple autoimmune markers that have helped us identify many people’s “unexplained symptoms” as a result of an autoimmune disease. It is one of the most complete autoimmune screening panels available to doctors today, and at a price of around $600 it is literally thousands of dollars cheaper than has ever been available.
For those struggling with infertility, this is an absolute must have investigative process to find the reason and get the right help.