Medicine in the field of infertility is constantly evolving, which is good news for couples who are struggling to conceive. We know much more about the causes of infertility now than ever before, and thankfully we have quite a few options to treat infertility as well, such as IVF.
Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells) are starting to be diagnosed as a possible issue in infertility, which is giving some answers to women who previously had been told they had unexplained infertility.
I’ve always believed it’s better to get a diagnosis (even though it can initially be a bit depressing), because then you have something to focus your treatments on.
NK cells are a natural part of our immune system, but in some people there is an overabundance of these cells in the uterus. This may lead to the body attacking an embryo when it’s trying to implant because it thinks it’s a foreign item that needs to be destroyed. We currently don’t have enough evidence in reproductive medicine to be sure this is exactly what’s happening though.
Steroid treatment is the preferred Western medicine form of treatment for high NK cells leading to miscarriage, however at this stage the evidence for it’s use is not considered to be available. Steroids are often started during the cycle, and stopped if there’s no pregnancy, or continued for at least the first trimester if there’s a positive pregnancy result.
While steroid treatment is prescribed by a qualified doctor, as with all medicines, it comes with risks and side effects. Those risks can include reduced foetal development, meaning your baby may be small at full term. (Source)
Chinese herbs may be another possible method of treating NK cell related infertility, however more high quality studies would be advised. The herbs are traditionally designed to support a healthy pregnancy by improving ‘Qi’ and reducing ‘restless foetus syndrome’ which is traditional Chinese medicine terminology.
According to a review of the available studies for Chinese medicine to treat threatened miscarriage:
“The meta-analysis in limited randomized clinical trials did not support that Chinese medicines alone were more effective than Western medicines. But it showed that combined Chinese and Western medicines were more effective than Western medicines alone to prevent inevitable miscarriage and continue pregnancy after 28 weeks of gestation. Meta-analysis in other clinical trials indicated that Chinese medicines alone or Chinese medicines combined with Western medicines were more effective than Western medicines alone to treat threatened miscarriage in relieving the clinical signs, including vaginal bleeding, low back pain, and abdominal pains. The result confirmed the therapeutic effects of Chinese medicines alone and combined with other pharmaceuticals for threatened miscarriage.”
Ultimately this review determined the outcomes of the available studies to not show effectiveness, but this was possibly due to the inconsistencies of herbal treatment (meaning different formulas were given based on Chinese medicine diagnoses, without adequate control groups).
I was unable to find any recent studies on Chinese herbs for NK cells.
If you have been diagnosed with high NK cells potentially leading to your infertility, it is advisable to work closely with your health professionals for treatment.
I’ve suffered 5 miscarriages in a row (3 after IUI treatment and 2 after IVF) and I have been diagnosed with elevated NK cells. We finally tried a surrogate but sadly after two attempts she has not gotten pregnant. We have one embryo left 🙁
I previously tried intralipid treatment on it’s own. Then switched specialists (to an immune RE) and he put me on intralipid and steroids but I still had the 5th miscarriage. For the last few months I’ve been taking herbs (with a few breaks off them during vacations) prescribed by my acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist.
My specialist says that the last embryo still has a better chance in our surrogate than in me, so I’m wondering if I should try IUI again on me. Have you heard of anyone successfully doing IUI with herbs and prednisone to combat elevated NK cells?
Sorry to hear about the tough journey you’ve been on.
I don’t see why IUI should be any different to IVF in the case of NK cells that are being treated with herbs and medicine.
However it sounds like NK cells aren’t the only factor in your miscarriages. Have you been tested for MTHFR? If you search on my site for MTHFR you can read my article about it. If you haven’t been tested this should be done in advance of another IUI or transfer.
Best of luck. Kim.
I’ve had a few miscarriages all at around 6-8 weeks I’ve been for private tests which indicate high level of nk cells and nhs tests put it down to my stress levels which caused miscarriages… interested in acupuncture can you give me some more information
I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriages. Stress certainly plays a part in our health in all aspects, but it isn’t specifically a cause of recurrent miscarriage. Obviously you will feel better in general with good stress management in place (we all need this!), but when it comes to NK cells, a combined holistic and medical approach has been found to be the most effective. If your doctors are not willing to give you Prednisone (or similar) then it’s worth finding a good acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist who can give you ongoing support with acupuncture, as well as herbal medicine to manage the NK cell level. The acupuncture would be based around supporting your immune system to function at it’s most effective, which will help with pregnancy health, as well as being a form of stress management. You would also benefit from herbal medicine during your next pregnancy to act as a support. Tu Si Zi is one of my favourite herbs for preventing miscarriage.
Best of luck for your future.
Please could you tell me which chinese tablets help to reduce elevated Natural Killer cells which cause infertility please.
There isn’t a patented pill version of the herbs for NK cells, it’s something your Chinese medicine practitioner would make for you specially (either raw herbs or granule herbs), with minor modifications based on your individual circumstances. My advice would be to find a practitioner who specialises in this field nearest to where you live so you can get a prescription made up.
Best of luck,