Natural Killer Cells & Recurrent Miscarriages


Can you even imagine what it feels like for a TTC mom to say, “All I know about pregnancy is loss?” You know without being told that there are a lot of emotions behind that statement. For most women, a pregnancy will naturally lead to a baby, but for some women, their sub-conscious has associated pregnancy with a loss, because that’s all they have ever experienced.

This reminds me of a statement that’s commonly said in movies, especially, Yoruba movies, and it is about a woman waiting on God for fruit of the womb; they say, and I literally translate thus; “Lord, if only you would just allow me get pregnant in the morning and lose it at night, I don’t mind, God, just let me become pregnant.” If only they knew the danger of that request. Living a life where all you know about procreation is getting pregnant and miscarrying, and even more miscarriages. It becomes a vicious cycle, that only the grace of God, and a doctor who knows his onions, can solve. And again, if you have been TTC for a while, everything and anything can begin to look attractive, compared to your current situation.

When Ezinne suffered her third miscarriage in the first trimester, it was time to take stock. She was not ready to go through any more miscarriages. The ravages of the aborted pregnancies and attendant hormonal changes were enough for her. It was time to do things differently.

The first place she started was her hospital and doctor. Not because they were not treating her well, or providing amazing post miscarriage support. No, they were quite good with her. The main reason she left was because there was nothing else they could offer her. They were all staring a dead end in the face, and that would just not do for her…not when she fully intended to become a mother.

After several visits and word of mouth referrals, she found a doctor, who had had quite an impressive record with women who had suffered recurrent miscarriages, as he had been able to treat me them successfully. She went to him, and after her first consultation, he decided to investigate her Natural Killer cells (NK cells) levels. Her results showed she was one of two in every 100 women of reproductive age, affected by elevated levels of NK cells in their system.
She was placed on some medication to help reduce the number of the cells in her body, especially her womb. According to medical science, natural killer cells are not bad. They are an innate part of the body’s immune system. They are triggered whenever the body needs to fight an infection. NK cells in the womb help in the implantation of the embryos, and development of the blood supply to the foetus, so you see, they are not bad at all…except in high quantities.

The normal range of the NK cells in the women should not be more than 5 percent, but women with abnormal NK cells are known to have up to 79 percent. The authors of a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism made a link between more NK cells in the lining of the womb and a deficient production of natural steroids. Having this deficiency in turn leads to a reduction in the formation of fats and vitamins that provide essential nutrition during pregnancy. They suggested that NK cells can be used as an indicator of steroid deficiency in the body, the womb especially.

So, often, doctors give steroids which are thought to work by reducing the percentage of NK cells in the womb, as a common treatment for recurrent miscarriage, and it appears to help some women go on to have a normal pregnancy.
Well, it helped with Ezinne…but not immediately. She still suffered another miscarriage with her new doctor, and it was even more devastating emotionally for her, as she had hoped that with this new doctor, she would no longer have to go through the heartbreak of a miscarriage. How wrong she was!

When she got pregnant again, she had been put on the steroids from the first day of her menstrual cycle, and she was constantly undergoing tests to find out whether the level had increased or decreased. But it was always going down. So, from a high level of 56%, it came down to a single digit of 9%.

However, having been down that road several times, Ezinne waited, with bated breath, for the first trimester to pass before making any plans, or even to think of herself as pregnant. The first trimester passed, the second trimester passed…but not without drama. Her pregnancy was threatened. She nearly lost the baby, but for her alertness and dogged mindedness.
When she first spotted some clot of blood in her undies, while using the toilet during her lunch break, she swung into action. Requesting for the rest of the day off, she drove herself to the hospital, and the doctor was thankful that she had come immediately. She was admitted and observed for the rest of the weekend, while the bleeding was brought under control, and the baby monitored to ensure it was doing fine.

She was allowed to go home, with strict instructions to avoid stress of any kind and, preferably, be on bed rest as much as was possible, until the day she gave birth. How she did it, she did not understand, but she managed to work until a few weeks before her EDD, and avoided any repeat of the event leading to the bleeding.

By the time she went on her maternity leave, she was more than ready for it. She gladly put up her feet, as she awaited the birth of her child. As though to prolong her wait, the baby refused to come on its EDD, and instead came 10 days later, when she and her doctor had concluded plans for her to have a C-section.

That was when she (the baby) came, a gorgeous little girl, with powerful lungs…which she used effectively, to make known to all who cared that she was here. Her cries brought tears to her mother’s eyes. They were tears of joy. Her longed-for child was here.
This child had changed the meaning of pregnancy for her. It no longer needed to end in loss; it could also end in a baby.

:dust:  for the journey!



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