Antiphospholipid Antibody Test
If you are currently undergoing fertility treatments but are still having trouble becoming pregnant, you may want to look to your blood for the answer. Many women with unexplained infertility actually have antibodies in their bloodstream which are working against conception. Your health care provider can run a series of tests to determine if you have large amounts of such antibodies in your blood. The anti-phospholid antibody screen is a popular test, especially among women who have experienced recurrent miscarriage and continued implantation failure.
What are Antiphospholipid Antibodies (APA)?
Antibodies are special cells that are supposed to help our bodies attack foreign invaders, like bacteria from colds and infections. Sometimes though, the body mistakes its own cells for invaders and attacks them, causing a host of problems. This is the case with antiphospholipid antibodies - they attack our own cells.
Antiphospholipid antibodies are proteins that circulate around in the bloodstream. These proteins bind to cell membranes, making them sticky. This prevents our blood from flowing properly, resulting in blood clots. These antibodies can endanger the health of both you or your baby.
Types of Antiphospholipid Antibodies
There are 21 different types of antiphospholipid antibodies. All are tested in the antiphospholipid antibody screen. Certain antiphospholipids can also be tested on their own. Some important phospholipid antibodies include:
Who Has Antiphospholipid Antibodies?
Though they can cause problems, surprisingly, 2% to 15% of the healthy population actually has antiphospholipid antibodies in their blood. However, these people have very low levels of the antibodies, and therefore they don't really cause a problem. It is only when they are at high levels that the antiphospholipid antibodies begin to make trouble.
Antiphospholipid antibodies are also commonly found in people with:
- unexplained infertility
- Migraine headaches
- Deep vein thrombosis
Complications Caused by Antiphospholipid Antibody
There are a number of complications associated with high levels of antiphospholipid antibody. These include:
- blood clotting
- heart attack
Infertility and Antiphospholipid Antibody
High levels of antiphospholipid antibody are often associated with unexplained infertility including:
- recurrent miscarriage
- placental insufficiency
- implantation failure
- increased rates of IVF failure.
It is thought that antiphospholipid antibodies compromise the placenta which nourishes your baby. Because the antibodies cause clotting, the embryo is cut off from oxygen and nutrient support. As a result, spontaneous miscarriage or fetal death can occur. Clotting can also cause distress to the placenta, making it difficult to have a successful implantation.
Testing for Antiphospholipid Antibodies
The antiphosolipid antibody test can check for elevated levels of all of the different types of antibodies. Tests can also be ordered to check on specific antibodies. The test is performed using a small blood sample.
The results of the antiphospholipid antibody test are measured in titers. This is a measurement of how much your blood can be diluted until there are no more antibodies in it. Results can be normal, borderline, or high. High levels typically measure between 1:100 and 1:400.
If you test as having high levels of antiphospholipid antibodies in your bloodstream, it is likely that these antibodies may be playing a role in your infertility. Your health care provider will discuss your results with you.
If you do test high for antiphospholipid antibodies, you may decide to try to treatment. Treatment is aimed at reducing the number of clots in your blood, and restoring blood flow to the placenta. Low-dose aspirin and the anticoagulant Heparin are often recommended.