5 Ways Your Immune System Can Affect Your Chances of Conception
It’s no secret that having a strong immune system will help support your body when it needs it most. With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 constantly looming, keeping our bodies fit and healthy has been up there with the most-talked about health benefits of the year.
You don’t only need a strong immune system for fighting infection – for anyone trying to conceive, having your immune system in tip-top condition has long been hailed as essential for those wanting to up their chances of conception.
How Your Immune System Can Affect Your Chances of Conception
- Strong immune systems lead to higher chances of conception
Although it was originally believed that the immune system weakens during pregnancy to avoid attacking the foetus, recent research conducted found that an aggressive immune system response is essential for implantation.
His research has found that in order for an embryo to implant successfully, immune cells must flood into the lining of the womb and cause inflammation. This heightened state of the immune system lasts for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, allowing the foetus to get ‘fully established’.
- The immune system as a ‘delicate balancing act’
Your immune system is incredibly effective at recognising what is ‘self’ and what is ‘non-self’ invaders – think bacteria, viruses or cancerous cells. Even organ transplants and blood transfusions are at risk from attack by your body’s ‘natural defenders’.
For this reason, it’s always been a scientific mystery why women can sustain a developing baby that is technically a ‘foreign body’ – babies possess only 50% of their mother’s DNA. In cases of egg donation, they possess none.
The truth is, your body has special immune mechanisms that ‘shield’ a developing embryo from your immune system. When this protection fails, complications with pregnancy arise.
Immunological responses are the likely cause in many cases of infertility and miscarriage. Experts estimate that up to 20% of miscarriages are related to autoimmune reactions. It’s as if your body has an allergic reaction to the embryo – “unexplained fertility” is likely recurrent miscarriages due to inappropriate immune reactions.
For example, antinuclear antibodies prove vital in conception. High amounts of these antibodies cause an inflammation in the uterus that does not allow it to be a suitable host for an embryo. Elevated levels may not always have a toxic effect – but they are indicative of a risk of miscarriage. Along these lines, natural killer cells may also misinterpret your growing embryo as cancer cells, attacking what it deems a ‘foreign body’.
When winter comes along, it is often accompanied by some nasty friends – influenza and the common cold. Flu season can stretch from October to as late as May. These illnesses are aggravating enough on their own, but many people also worry about getting sick while trying for a baby.
Whilst there are no inherent risks to worry about when it comes to sickness and family planning, there are still ways they can interfere with your efforts.
Trying for a baby puts you at higher risk of dangerous complications from the flu – immune systems may tip during the ‘delicate balancing act’ of pregnancy. Where your immune system once protected you and your child, it may begin to aggressively attack the ‘foreign bodies’ infecting you. Unfortunately, your growing embryo may be misinterpreted and consequently miscarried as your body attempts to defend itself.
Immunosuppressive drugs are frequently prescribed in young people – although these treatments may have negative impacts on fertility, pregnancy outcomes and your unborn child. Issues such as gestational diabetes and hypertension are amplified by immunosuppressive agents – think steroids and tacrolimus. This makes it hard to continue pregnancy, even if you do conceive.
It’s wise to secure a handy fertility tracker to really monitor your levels and avoid the ‘guessing game’, especially if you’re on new medication. The best thing you can do yourself is to stay healthy and hydrated, with a nutritious immune boosting diet. With a little patience and persistence, hopefully you’ll get the positive pregnancy test you’re waiting for.