Immune Infertility: Natural Options for Immunological Fertility Issues

Immune Infertility: Natural Options for Immunological Fertility Issues

What are Immunological Fertility Issues?
First we must understand that the immune system is a complex network in the body. The immune system refers to all parts of the body that work to defend it against harmful enemies. In people with immunological fertility problems their body identifies part of reproductive function as an enemy and sends Natural Killer (NK) cells to attack. A healthy immune response would only identify an enemy correctly and attack only foreign invaders such as a virus, parasite, bacteria, ect. In fact immunological fertility issues are so complex that there is really no way for us to cover the entire topic, so I will provide basic information in order to help you learn natural options to help reduce negative immunological response, as well as determine whether you fall under risk factors for testing. This article will provide information on immunological recurrent miscarriage and anti-sperm antibodies, the two most prevalent immune related fertility problems.

Who is in Need of Immunological Fertility Testing?
People with the following indications may want to consider getting testing by a Reproductive Immunologist. A Reproductive Immunologist differs from a Reproductive Endocrinologist, which most couples are referred to when fertility issues are not determined by an OBGyn, or other doctor. Reproductive Immunologists have the training and skills to determine if there is in fact an immunological response gone awry that is causing difficulty in getting pregnant or carrying to full term.

  • 2 or more miscarriages after the age of 35
  • 2 IVF failures after the age of 35
  • 3 miscarriages before the age of 35
  • 1 failed IVF before the age of 35
  • Poor egg production from a stimulated cycle (6 eggs or less)
  • Blighted ovum
  • Pre-existing immune problems (Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS)
  • Unexplained Infertility diagnosis
  • Previous pregnancies showing retarded fetal growth
  • 1 healthy pregnancy with all subsequent pregnancies ending in miscarriage
  • Endometriosis, especially stage 1 & 2
  • Cold and flu-like symptoms, sore throat noted regularly after ovulation, IUI, or IVF transfer
  • Family history of immune disorders, either side of the family

Immunological Causes of Recurrent Miscarriage

2% of women of reproductive age experience habitual miscarriage.

Problems with Embryo Signaling
Once conception has taken place the developing embryo must signal the mother’s immune cells to recognize it as “self” rather than a foreign invader. The embryo does this by secreting HLA G antigen to signal the mother’s immune cells to allow it to grow and stay. In this case HLA G antigen improperly functions and the mother’s immune cells attack the embryo, eventually resulting in miscarriage. This is considered a HLA G gene mutation. There is testing to determine if this is happening.

Problems with the Mother’s Immune Response to the Embryo
This is when the mother’s immune cells do not respond to the healthy signal of HLA G antigen release. Again, the mother’s immune cells attack the embryo. When an embryo is attacked it is not destroyed, but causes inactivation of the DNA in the embryo so that these cells stop dividing and replicating. The embryo fails to grow and dies. There are a series of blood tests that can be performed to determine which immune cells are malfunctioning.

Thrombophilia: Blood Clotting Issue
This happens after the mother’s body recognizes the baby as part of herself and the embryo has implanted. The vessels in the placenta take blood and nutrients to the fetus. In the case of a blood clotting issue related immunological miscarriage, those vessels clot off, literally starving the embryo of oxygen, blood, and vital nutrients. Blood testing can determine if this is a factor.

Antisperm Antibody
In some people semen can cause an immune response in men or women. Antibodies are triggered during the immune response that “attack” sperm. High numbers of sperm antibodies can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg, and/or fertilize the egg. Antisperm antibodies may damage sperm that survive, which may increase the chance of miscarriage.

How Does This Happen in Men?
A man’s body may create antisperm antibodies when the sperm come into contact with his immune system’s “killer” cells. These cells are typically a good thing – they protect the body from foreign invaders, in order to keep us healthy. In the case of antisperm antibodies, they identify the semen and the sperm within as the “enemy”. How are antisperm antibodies alerted for attack? When the testicles are injured, after surgery (biopsy, vasectomy), or if the prostate gland has an infection. The testicles protect the sperm from immune cells, when they are damaged they may no longer be able to do that.

Over 70% of all men who get a vasectomy will develop antisperm antibodies. This is something important to consider if there is a chance of vasectomy reversal (vasovasostomy) in the future. Research shows that men who have had a vasectomy reversal are also more likely to experience infertility due to obstructive scar tissue build up. This creates a situation of “double trouble” when trying to conceive. The longer a man waits to get a vasectomy reversal, the longer his sperm will be exposed to antisperm antibody activity which may lower sperm quality.

How Does This Happen in Women?
This is very rare, but in some women their bodies have an allergic reaction to her partner’s sperm. This stimulates the immune system to create antisperm antibodies that attack her partner’s sperm. This may also cause her vaginal tissues to react to the semen, which may result in rash, sores, or painful sexual intercourse. Doctors are not sure why this happens.

Hope for Immune Related Fertility Issues Using Wobenzym N

Immunological Recurrent Miscarriage
In the case of recurrent miscarriage due to immunological response, Systemic Enzyme Therapy has proven effective in treating pregnant mother’s and their babies. Research has shown that the systemic enzyme blend Wobenzym N may effectively help reduce immunological response in a pregnant mother’s body so that she can carry her pregnancy full term. Human trials performed from 1994-1999 have proven Wobenzym N, when used throughout pregnancy stabilizes the mother’s immune system, allowing for a healthy full term pregnancy with no adverse effects to the mother or child.

Systemic Enzyme Therapy is a relatively inexpensive therapy compared to medications administered by Reproductive Immunologists. Each bottle of Wobenzym N lasts for a month and a half when taken at a regular dosage. Average cost for use a year is $720.00 compared to a minimum average of $12,00.00 a year for immune suppression therapy administered by a doctor.

If you are interested in Systemic Enzyme Therapy for immunological induced recurrent miscarriage, please talk to your doctor. It may be best to begin Systemic Enzyme Therapy while you are trying to conceive, and then continue on through pregnancy as directed by your physician.

Antisperm Antibodies in Both Men and Women
Systemic enzyme blends work to stabilize and promote proper function of the immune system. This may greatly help the person who has developed antisperm antibodies to help suppress an attack on sperm, while also working to prevent long term damage to the health of the sperm.

In the case of vasectomy reversal, Systemic Enzyme Therapy using Wobenzym N may help to reduce scar tissue or adhesion damage from both the vasectomy and vasectomy reversal procedures.

In women, use of systemic enzymes in relation to antisperm antibodies may also help to reduce pain and inflammation caused from an allergic reaction to the semen.

Supportive Fertility Herbs for Immunological Fertility Problems

Below are herbs that benefit a healthy immune and stress response within the body, while aiding in proper function of the reproductive system. These here are Adaptogens. Adaptogen is one of the many definitions for the therapeutic action a plant has. This term is well known by herbalists, naturopathic doctors and other alternative medicine practitioners. This term may not be as well know by medical doctors; so don’t be worried if your doctor does not know what adaptogen means. Adaptogens increase resistance to mind-body stress and enhance overall vitality and health through non-specific adrenal (known as stress glands) support. Plants recognized as adaptogens help to normalize the bodies functions even during disease states, are non-toxic, nutritive, and have been deemed safe for long term use. If a plant is an adaptogen it may also have other action classifications such as anti-viral, immunostimulant or tonic. In general a medicinal herb has many classifications as plants often have many actions.

Shatavari
Shatavari may be very helpful with women who have stress related or immune-mediated fertility issues. Autoimmune fertility issues may be helped by proper immunological function supported by Shatavari. This plant has been shown to protect the body from stressors, proving very helpful for women with stress induced fertility issues. Shatavari has been shown safe for use by men and women to support healthy fertility.

Dong Quai
Dong Quai stimulates healthy a immune response. The root of this plant has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects which encourage proper immune system function, reduces scar tissue formation and inflammation.

There has been a correlation between immune response and endometriosis in some women. Some research points to women with endometriosis having a type of autoimmune response that is out of balance. Dong Quai stimulates phagocytosis. The stimulation of phagocyte activity aids in the break down of foreign tissue, while also aiding a healthy immune response, in order to help prevent the spread of entometrial tissue formation outside of the uterine lining.

Tribulus Terrestris
A study using Tribulus terrestris showed a 61% increase in conception in couples with sperm antibodies causing their infertility. Tribulus is safe for both men and women to use. This herbal supplement may decrease the effects of sperm antibodies.

Maca
A full immune response to attack a part of the body that is unwanted puts our body in a heightened state of stress. When this happens repeatedly (recurrent miscarriage), or long-term (antisperm antibody) the overall immune function may be lowered. It is important to consider ways to support your overall body’s functions nutritionally. Maca is superior in nutrition compared to most other foods on the planet, this is why it is deemed a superfood. Maca nourishes the endocrine system, aiding both the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands. All of these are involved in maintaining hormonal balance, but also are the first to respond to stressors. Supporting the endocrine system helps to maintain proper immunity and stress response as well.

Commentary

A healthy, well nourished body is more likely to respond better to trauma, surgery, daily stress, environmental toxin overload, etc. We must support our bodies not only nutritionally, but with daily exercise as well. If we do not, our bodies will not be able to heal as quickly. Doctors are not 100% sure why immune related fertility issues happen, but they do know there are not that many effective options in treating them. Let us first consider natural options in supporting proper function of the body, so that if our bodies face problems in functioning as they should, the rest of the body is ready to handle the stress.

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[-] 32 Comments
  1. Hi, can I take Maca, Shatavari and Tribulus together? And how much would I take? I’m 40 and have had recurrent chemical pregnancies. Thank you!

  2. Hi,
    I am 28 years old. Trying to conceive for 4 years. Underwent 1 laproscopy (Observed One ovary is present), 2 hysteroscopy, 5 cycles of Cloomid+IUI, 2 failed ivfs. Reason for failed ivfs could be average to poor egg quality. After first failed ivf they recommended me to undergo NK cell testing and found that I had 27% of NK cells and was treated with Intralipids during second IVF. I don’t know what is stopping me from conceiving a baby. Is it NK cell or Poor egg quality or both. I never got pregnancy positive. Can you please recommend which Herb will help in conception? Also, myself and my husband were tested positive for Antisperm antibody. We took Steriod tablets for 2 months but nothing worked.

    • Hi Nisha,

      Thank you for your questions. It is possible the combination of elevated NK cells, poor egg quality and antisperm antibodies are hindering conception and pregnancy. Wobenzym N and Tribulus may warrant further investigation! They may be worth a try! Since you only have one ovary, it would be good to chart your fertility cycle, to see if you are ovulating monthly, or bi-monthly. Knowing if and when you ovulate will help to ensure you and your husband are trying for a baby at the right time! If you feel you need more personalized guidance, please consider working with us through a fertility consultation!

    • Hi Dalene,
      Thanks for the reply! I went through the two herbs that you mentioned in the comment. It was helpful. Can you please suggest me if I need to take any other herbs besides Tribulus and Wobenzym N to improve egg quality?

      Thanks in advance!

    • Hello Nisha!

      I am glad what Dalene shared was helpful. We know that egg health can be easily impacted by diet, so a whole food fertility diet is suggested along with considering herbs and nutritional supplements and even natural therapies. Learn more in our guide to How to Increase Your Egg Health in 90 Days.

      I hope this too is helpful!

  3. Hi, I was told that I have strong cellular immunity against sperm (I am not sure if the term is correct, this is used in my language) and my husband has also sperm antibodies (not that much). I was told that I need to take corticoids and not have sex for 3 months. I am healthy, 28 years old. We have been trying to concieve for 1 and half. I am really scared of corticoids, there are too many side effects. Is there a natural way we can really heal our immune systems and concieve?
    Thank you,
    Anna

  4. 3 healthy babies, now 6 miscarriages over an 18 month period?
    I’m in the uk, and I’ve been diagnosed with high NK cells. They’ve not really given me any information, just told me to start taking a steroid and progesterone treatment plan. I’m not too keen on steroids. I just don’t understand why I had my first 3 no problems, and now all of a sudden I can’t carry them past 6/7 weeks.
    I’m just going through my 6th miscarriage now in 18 months. I said I wouldn’t try again as it’s very emotionally and physically exhausting, but I still just feel ‘maybe next time, maybe one more try’. What would you recommend for me? How can i get the treatment here in the UK? I’m just so numb now and need some more help/options. 🙁

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you for contacting us, I am sorry to hear of your very heart-breaking struggles! The immune system can be quite a mystery and often there is not an answer as to why immune-related health issues develop. They can develop at any time. There is no way for me to make recommendations for you here, with so little information about you. We offer personalized, excellent natural fertility consultations, should be interested in pursuing having another child. To learn more about our consultation program, please go to this link: http://www.naturalfertilityshop.com/Articles.asp?ID=337

      We carry all of the mentioned supplements and herbs in this article in our online store and we ship to the UK.

      May you have some time carved out to explore your feelings on having another child more, so that you know if moving forward with that or not is right for you and your family.

  5. Hi, I have high natural killers cells (th1 dominance), blood clotting and MTFHR. I’ve had two miscarriages (last one 9 months ago now) and I am looking at taking Wobenzym or serrapeptase. Which one would you recommend for these issues? Also would Wobenzym be safe to take with Maca and Dong Quai? Are these okay to use with Clomid?

    • Hi fleur,

      I just replied to a slight variation of this question on another article. My answer there is that we prefer Wobenzym N over Serrapeptase alone. Not only is Wobenzym N backed by more research, it has more than just one enzyme in it. Wobenzym N is fine to combine with Maca, but for people with blood clotting disorders, it is important to note that both Wobenzym N and Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) have a slight blood thinning effect and combined it may increase this activity. Maca and Dong Quai should not be used in the same cycle while using Clomid. Wobenzym N is fine, as it doesn’t have an action on hormones.

  6. Hello, can these herbs be taken by people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s? I thought that with autoimmune disease the immune system is overdriven, isn’t it? I’m confused about should we stimulate or modulate our immune system within autoimmunity issues?

    • Dear Kate,

      Autoimmune health issues cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissues. The immune system may not be over driven, rather is unable to identify the proper thing to attack and defend the body against (the healthy tissue from the antigen).

      Medicines can be prescribed to reduce the immune system’s abnormal response, but treatment will differ for each case. The goal of natural therapies is to help the immune system function at its best. Herbs, nutritional supplements and natural therapies are known to promote a healthy immune response within the body.

      Click the link in this sentence for more specifics about How Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Affects Fertility and a natural thyroid support plan.

  7. Hello, is it okay to take all 4 herbal remedies: Shatavari, Dong Quai, Tribulus Terrestris & Maca at once? We have been trying to conceive for 4 1/2 years without success. We have had one IVF attempt which failed as all eggs failed to fertilise and it is suspected we might have immunological fertility issues. Therefore these natural remedies might be worth a try. Thanks

  8. I read in your article on conditions which will require a visit to a reproductive immunologist and Endommetriosis stage 1 and 2 were among the list. What if you are stage 3 or 4, does it mean that wobenzym N will not be effective for you?

    • Dear Ije,

      Stage III and IV endometriosis may require working with a healthcare provider to create the best plan for addressing symptoms, which may include surgical procedures such as Laparoscopy or Excision surgery. No matter the stage you suffer from, also consider a natural endometriosis support plan which could include Systemic Enzyme Therapy with Wobenzym N.

  9. is this benefit to people who are undergoing LIT threapy.

    • Dear Joyti,

      It will be best to speak to your healthcare provider about anything in this article that interests you and using it in combination with LIT Therapy. We can not suggest herbs and nutritional supplements be used when going through this therapy.

  10. Hi, I was chatting with Sonia this morning about the sore throat after ovulation. I am at work so if I have to run, please email me back. This is the first time that I have been able to find anything about the symptoms that I am having and would really like to know why this is happening and what you recommend as a treatment plan.
    Thanks so much!

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Dear Lorece,

      As stated here, if you experience sore throat noted regularly after ovulation or any other of the indications listed, you may want to consider being referred to a Reproductive Immunologist (different from a Reproductive Endocrinologist) for further testing.

      This article makes suggestions for what you might try, if you wish for a personalized natural fertility program for your specific fertility health needs, we offer this guidance through a Fertility Consultation. Through a Fertility Consultation, you have the opportunity submit your comprehensive intake form, including fertility health history, your 3 detailed questions and overall goal for your fertility and within 5 business days one of our Master Herbalists will review, layout and explain each step of your consultation.

      Take care!

  11. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  12. Update: I just found some research that showed 80% of all insurance claims for Reproductive Immunology were denied in 1996. While this study is older, it shows how new and difficult it may be for couples to get a diagnoses, let alone treatment. The most common reason for denial was that RI, is “experimental”. The second is that that type of fertility treatment is not part of the coverage plan. The third is that the treatment is not necessary. The average percentage of coverage for RI related therapies was 65%. Call around to different RI’s, as what the testing and initial consultation is. It may be that you won’t need to go on with their medical therapies. -Dalene

  13. Hey Dalene,

    This article rocks… It is full of NEED TO KNOW information. it gives me a greater understanding of some of the issues with immunity and antisperm antibodies… Thank you for this info…

    : ) Raven

  14. I have been using Zymessence that I purchased from your site over a year ago, now for over 6 weeks. I am nearly 7 weeks pregnant and just wondering what you would recommend I use now. Can I start on the Wobenzyme once I have finished the Zymessence? Also Can I start using Maca, Spirulina and Bee pollen?
    Thanks,
    Cs

    • Hi CS,

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! You can either purchase Zymessence from another company, or switch to Wobezym N. The makers of Zymessence used the research that used Wobenzym N to make their product. We do not recommend beginning maca or bee pollen once already pregnant. You can learn more about using maca into pregnancy here: http://natural-fertility-info.com/maca-fertility-qa.html If there is a history of bee allergy on either side of your baby’s family, it is best to avoid all bee products during pregnancy.

      Pure, clean, high quality spirulina is fine to consume in pregnancy.

      Best Wishes,

      Dalene

  15. Thanks for a really good article with some really useful information. When I went to a fertility clinic this year they ran a whole lot of blood tests and it came out that I had antiphosholipid antibodies which they say at some stage my immune system felt threatened and created these. I’m not sure which category that would fit! Modern medicine is amazing though, and as soon as I got pregnant they put me on Meticortin and Ecotrin plus an Intragam injection every week. This was for the first 3 months but now I still have to take Ecotrin for the rest of the pregnancy. It just shows how important testing is before you get pregnant. Oh and I also had endo stage 2.

  16. Can men take Rejuvenzyme? My husband has antisperm antibodies, and I am wondering if this product may help.

    • Hi Ali,

      Yes! RejuvenZyme is almost exactly the same as Wobenzym N, yet it is more cost effective! It is safe for use by men and women.

      All the best,

      Dalene

  17. How do I know where to start. I am 37 with 2 children. Both through Ivf with several failed attempts spanning over 10 years. My youngest is 7 and I am still trying on my own. Never really a diagnosis. Is there some sort of specific guide or plan to follow?
    Thanks Erika