Research studies on infertility focus on facilitating the process of conception. Thus, millions of babies have been born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). On the other hand, less attention is given as to what happens afterwards, e.g. does the pregnancy proceeds normally up to full term?
By definition, 33-year Angie Baker of Britain is not suffering from infertility. She has conceived at least 18 times. However, what is remarkable is the fact that none of those pregnancies resulted in a live birth. The pregnancies always ended in miscarriages before the 8th week of gestation. Baker had a total of 18 miscarriages (spontaneous abortion in doctor speak) and started to think about adoption. Until she learned about a doctors specializing in preventing miscarriages.
Miscarriages can be caused by many things, including (source: American Pregnancy Association):
- Hormonal problems, infections or maternal health problems
- Lifestyle (i.e. smoking, drug use, malnutrition, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substances)
- Implantation of the egg into the uterine lining does not occur properly
- Maternal age
- Maternal trauma
In Baker’s case, it was the natural killer (NK) cells that were causing the problem, according to her doctor, miscarriage expert Dr. Hassan Shehata Epsom at St. Helier University Hospital, in Sutton, just south of London. NK cells are a type of white blood cells that protect the body from invading foreign viruses. In the female body, the highest number of NK cells is found in the lining of the uterus, the endometrium. In some cases, the NK cells mistakenly perceive the growing embryo or fetus as a foreign virus and attacks it, causing the miscarriage.
Dr. Shehata tested Baker to determine the number of NK cells in the uterus as well the aggressiveness of the NK cells. They found that Baker’s NK cells are highly aggressive. The treatment is to slow down the activity of the NK cells. And steroid treatment seems to be the best way to do this. It is incredible that the treatment that could have spared Baker the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy and miscarriage is so simple, not to mention cheap. The steroid prescription cost less than $25.00.
However, Dr. Shehata had another card up his sleeve. He started the steroid treatment before Baker was pregnant for the 19th time. The doctor explains:
“My theory is that any miscarriage starts at the time of conception, the trick is to start treatment before a woman conceives. If we see a baby’s heart then we will give you the treatment.’ In my opinion you are playing catch-up and that is a very dangerous game.”
As soon as Baker’s pregnancy went beyond the 1st trimester without any complications, the doctor stopped the treatment, confident that the placenta has developed enough to provide protection to the growing fetus. The story ends happily. Baker gave birth to a healthy 7-pound baby girl whom she named Raiya.
Dr. Shehata’s treatment certainly offers hope for many women but he is quick to emphasize that his technique is not a “blanket solution” to prevent all miscarriages, which as explained above, are due to multiple causes.
Photo credit: stock.xchng