Identified Triggers to Maternal Immune Dysfunction

Inflammatory Flares During Pregnancy May Trigger Autism

Reproductive immunologists have long since known that a mother's immune system may affect her ability to initiate and maintain a pregnancy. Rather than protecting a developing fetus, an overly active maternal immune system can view the developing embryo as an invader and "attack" it instead. Often, this leads to problems with embryo implantation or sustainability.

Recent studies now indicate that a mother's immune system may not only affect the viability of the pregnancy, but also the cognitive development of future offspring. These studies imply the following:

  • An inflammatory flare during the second trimester of pregnancy appears to increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • The risk seems to be even higher for women who have a prior history of miscarriages and / or have already given birth to an autistic child
  • In fetuses with a genetic predisposition to autism, an assault by a mother's immune system seems to trigger the development of ASD

Worldwide research is currently being conducted on what triggers maternal immune dysfunction and, in turn, may trigger autism development. It is the hope of some researchers that treating the identified causes of inflammatory flares during pregnancy may hinder a possible domino effect leading to autism manifestation.

Illness May Initiate Immune System Dysfunction

Individuals with autoimmune disorders experience an increase of symptoms during periods of illness, stress, or fatigue. These inflammatory flares are the result of their immune system's inappropriate response to an infection or other medical ailment. In the case of undiagnosed patients, these flares may go undetected or written off as a normal byproduct of an illness.

Exaggerated inflammation due to illness can be particularly troublesome for pregnant women, especially in light of recent studies that have linked them to an increased risk of having an autistic child. The illnesses implicated in these studies include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Fever due to viruses, such as the flu
  • Bacterial infections
  • Allergies
  • Metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity

Many of the studies concluded that the risk of ASD development was increased if an infection occurred during the second trimester, a critical time of fetal brain development.

Connection between autoimmune and ASD triggers?

While the cause of autoimmune diseases and autism has yet to be completely identified, scientists agree that there are both genetic and external factors involved in their development. An individual may have a predisposition for the disorder and then something external may activate its progression. This similarity is intriguing because recent studies have found that 40% of autistic children have one or more family members with an autoimmune disorder. How the medical issues are related and the possibility of shared trigger factors is the basis of continuing research.

Reproductive immunologists will often counsel their patients to avoid agents known to exasperate inflammatory symptoms. Triggers can include:

  • Gluten, especially in celiac patients
  • Environmental toxins
  • GMOs

Treating autoimmune patients during pregnancy is especially complicated. While there is some commonality, not all patients react the same way to every trigger. Monitoring and treatment plans should be specifically tailored to the structure of an autoimmune diagnosis.

As a recognized world leader in reproductive immunology, we have created the first fully comprehensive immune panel in the nation to decipher the functionality of the entire immune system and how it reacts to triggering factors. Additionally, Braverman Reproductive Immunology has the capability to test the embryos of IVF patients for known genetic predispositions for autism. Our practice is uniquely qualified to look into the triggers of maternal autoimmune dysfunction and the incidence of autism development.

Currently, our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Braverman, is moderating an online dialog to gather further information regarding the correlation of autoimmune disease and ASD. We feel this area of discussion is particularly important to women who have an autistic child, a history of miscarriages, and are contemplating the risks of an additional pregnancy. Potential mothers who fit this category are highly encouraged to join our discussion forum. It is our goal to learn more about the possible connection between autoimmune disorders and ASD through the candid sharing of experiences and the exchange of relevant medical advice

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