A potential cause of miscarriages has been identified by scientists. As a woman who has experienced three, I am overjoyed by this news and the possibility that it could spare women who experience recurrent miscarriage from more pain.
It turns out that women who suffer repeated miscarriages have high levels of a molecule known as IL-33 in their womb cells. Researchers claim the molecules control whether the embryo is accepted by the womb. From Science Daily:
At the start of pregnancy, the fertilised embryo must embed itself in the lining of the uterus. The uterus is only receptive to embryos for a few days in each menstrual cycle, ensuring that embryos can only implant at the right stage of development. Currently scientists know only a few details about the biological processes that control when an embryo can be implanted.
In the latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers studied chemical signals produced by human cells, taken from the lining of the uterus and grown in the lab. They identified a key role for a molecule called IL-33, which the cells secrete during the receptive phase and which influences the activity of nearby cells.
Normally, the effects of IL-33 and other chemical signals in the lining of the womb are short-lived, which helps to ensure that woman can only conceive during a narrow window. In cells from women who had suffered three or more miscarriages however, high levels of IL-33 continued to be secreted for 10 days, suggesting that the receptivity of the uterus was not being controlled properly in these women.
These findings suggest that medications that target the protein could be given to women who have proven to be particularly vulnerable to repeated miscarriage. This could be great news for women who go through repeated losses before getting a pregnancy that “sticks.’
Having been through the struggle of repeated pregnancy loss, I can tell you that there is not much help out there. Doctors usually just assure you that a couple losses are “normal” for most women. They offer tests to determine whether your tubes are clear. The rest is basically fingers crossed! The idea that repeated miscarriages may actually be a treatable condition will be the light at the end of the tunnel for many women.