How does the immune system affect the chance of miscarriage?

Tommy’s researchers want to find out more about the role of the immune system in women who have had multiple miscarriages and see if immune testing can help us to prevent them from happening in the future.
  • Author's list

    Dr Alex Richter, Dr Jennifer Tamblyn, Dr Hoda Harb, Professor Arri Coomarasamy

    Start date: 2017
    End date: 2021

Why do we need this research?

During pregnancy, the immune system changes, helping to protect the baby growing in the womb. Recurrent miscarriage – three or more in a row – has been linked to problems with the way that the immune system adapts.

Outside of NHS settings, some women are offered immune system tests with the claim that they can help predict the chance of further miscarriage. However, we don’t know enough about these tests to be certain that they are useful, and they are not currently recommended in national clinical guidelines. We need to learn more about how the immune system is involved in miscarriage so that we can provide women with the most appropriate tests to give them the answers they need. Knowing how the immune system is involved could also help us prevent miscarriage in the future.

What’s happening in this project?

Scientists funded by Tommy’s are carrying out a study in women who have experienced two or more unexplained miscarriages. Using the immune tests that private settings most commonly offer to patients, the team are looking at the immune cells and other substances present in blood samples from these women to understand how their immune systems are working, and to see if there are any differences between the women who go on to have a successful pregnancy and those that have another miscarriage. The team are also recruiting women who have not had a miscarriage to compare their immune systems to those of the women who have had two or more miscarriages.

Our scientists will combine the results of these immune system tests with information from the Tommy’s Net database. This will help them to develop new methods to predict if a woman is likely to miscarry, based on many different factors.

What difference will this project make?

This project will help us to better understand the role of the immune system in miscarriage. This could help scientists to develop new tests and give women who have suffered multiple miscarriages the answers they need about why it happened. A better understanding of the immune system could also lead to the development of new treatments to prevent women from having another miscarriage in the future.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.