Anti Nuclear Antibody Screen (ANA)
Going through infertility treatment can be quite trying sometimes. There are dozens of different tests and a wide variety of treatments to consider. Often, treatments like IVF and IUI fail for some couples. If you are having troubles getting pregnant but don't know why, it may be a result of your immune system. Many women have anti nuclear antibodies in their bloodstreams, which makes pregnancy difficult. Having an anti-nuclear antibody screen could give you insight into your fertility difficulties.
What are Anti Nuclear Antibodies (ANA)?
Anti nuclear antibodies are cells that attack the nuclei of other cells in your body. Typically, your body creates antibodies to help fight against invading bacteria and germs in your body. This is how you fight off infection, colds, and other illnesses. Sometimes though, your body can mistake your normal cells for invaders. Anti nuclear antibodies attack the nuclei (centers) of these normal cells. As a result, inflammation and illness can occur.
Types of Anti Nuclear Antibodies
There are actually over 100 different strains of anti nuclear antibodies. If you have anti nuclear antibodies, you may have a variety of different strains. Typical tests look for the most common strains of these anti nuclear antibodies.
Who Has Anti Nuclear Antibodies?
5 % of healthy people actually have anti nuclear antibodies in their blood. These people have extremely low levels of the antibodies and therefore are not troubled by them. People with autoimmune diseases like Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes also tend to have high levels of anti nuclear antibodies. Sometimes, people on blood pressure or heart medication also show high levels of anti nuclear antibodies.
Complications Caused by Anti Nuclear Antibodies
Small amounts of anti nuclear antibodies are entirely normal. These should not cause any complications. However, if you have large amounts of anti nuclear antibodies in your bloodstream, this can create problems. Because these antibodies destroy healthy cells, your body can suffer greatly if there are too many. Complications associated with anti-nuclear antibodies include:
- autoimmune diseases
- unexplained infertility
Infertility and Anti Nuclear Antibodies
Anti nuclear antibodies have also been shown to play a role in fertility problems. Many women who have high levels of the antibodies are unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. It is thought that anti nuclear antibodies cause inflammation in the uterus and placenta, contributing to miscarriage and implantation failure. These antibodies particularly affect IVF and ICSI treatments, with studies showing that women with high levels of anti nuclear antibodies generally have lower than expected pregnancy rates.
Anti Nuclear Antibody Test
If you are having troubles getting pregnant, you may decide to have an anti nuclear antibody test to check the levels in your body. It is a simple blood test which can be performed at your fertility clinic. Blood is drawn from your arm and sent to a laboratory for examination.
What do the Results Mean?
When you get your results back from your anti nuclear antibody test, your health care provider will go over them with you. These results will help you to determine what your next step in fertility treatment will be. Anti nuclear antibodies are measured in titers. This is a measurement of how much your blood can be diluted before no antibodies can be seen.
Normal levels are typically under 1:20, though 1:40 is also acceptable. Levels above 1:40 indicate a high presence of anti nuclear antibodies in your blood. This may be contributing to your infertility.
After the Test
If your results are normal, then anti nuclear antibodies are probably not playing a role in your fertility troubles. Further testing may be required to get to the root of the problems.
If you do have high levels, than you might consider treatment to help lower them. This can help to increase your chances of conceiving a child. Typical treatment involves the medication prednisone, which has proven highly effective for many women. In fact, up to 54% of women on prednisone conceive a child in their next treatment cycle. Speak with your health care provider for more information.