I remember going through my infertility treatments, treating my body like a temple. I ate organically, eschewed my beloved Diet Coke and sushi, got plenty of sleep, and did yoga. But I couldn’t get pregnant; and I couldn’t keep the horrible mean thoughts out of my head about women who shot heroine into their veins, sold their bodies for drug money, and ended up with unwanted pregnancies. It just didn’t seem fair.
I was grateful that during that time, when I was trying to get pregnant, I had a very humble and honest OB who told me the medical community knows, in the grand scheme of things, a very small amount about what has to go exactly right to create a successful pregnancy. Certainly, there have been great strides made in unlocking infertility and miscarriage, but every new discovery sheds light on how important each piece is, and without all the pieces, it is impossible to treat all the issues. It made me feel better somehow to hear her say that there was so much they didn’t know, and that maybe one of the reasons I couldn’t get pregnant just hadn’t been figured out yet. It made me feel less “broken” somehow.
The balance of hormones, proteins and enzymes that have to be in perfect concert to allow fertilization and implantation, and then to sustain the pregnancy is mind-boggling. Researchers at the Imperial College London have isolated an enzyme found in the womb that seems to play a role in both infertility and miscarriage. The enzyme, named SGK1, appears to affect pregnancy differently, depending on whether it’s too low, or too high.
There were 106 women in the study, headed by Professor Jan Brosens. The women fell into two categories: those who were not able to conceive after two years (and had the other, most common reasons for infertility ruled out,) and those with reoccurring miscarriages. Samples were taken of their uterine linings, and tested for levels of SGK1.
Of the women studied, those suffering from infertility had a high level of SGK1 in their womb linings. Conversely, the women in the study who suffered reoccurring miscarriages had low levels of SGK1 in their womb linings.
The researchers furthered their work in the lab. They implanted extra copies of the enzyme into the wombs of infertile mice with low SGK1, and the mice were able to get pregnant. When the researchers blocked the enzyme in mice who were pregnant, they had small litters and showed uterine bleeding, supporting the theory that a lower amount of the enzyme could be a contributing factor in miscarriage.
While the technology to properly diagnose and treat this irregularity is not developed, it is another piece of the puzzle, and in time, will become one more issue that can be directly addressed in women with infertility and reoccurring miscarriage.
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