Anti-ovarian antibodies (OA) can create an aggressive Th1 autoimmune disorder that attacks and removes healthy eggs and follicles from the ovaries. Low levels of anti-ovarian antibodies are routinely found in women’s blood (around 30% of healthy women have anti-ovarian antibodies in their blood samples), but these women have no problems conceiving or carrying to term.
However, elevated anti-ovarian antibodies in the blood can cause problems with the ovaries, and the condition is linked to several fertility problems, mainly due to increased atresia (the death of follicles and eggs) during their recruitment towards ovulation:
- Premature ovarian failure is an issue for 15-70% of women with high anti-ovarian antibody levels i ii
- Pregnancy rates are lower iii
- Corpus luteum function is reduced
- Low progesterone levels in the luteal phase
- Poor responses to IVF stimulation iv
Testing and Treatment
Testing requires 1-2ml of the woman’s blood, and results are usually a simple positive or negative to the normal range.
Standard treatment is usually with steroids (dexamethasone or prednisolone plus calcium)
Alternative herbal treatment has limited success for women testing positive to OA, with about 40% of 67 cases achieving normal values after three months of medicinal herbs
iiOvarian antibodies, FSH and inhibin B: Independent markers associated with unexplained infertility, Luborsky J et al., Human Reproduction, 15(5):1046-51, 2000
iiiThe possible role of anti-ovarian antibodies in repeated in vitro fertilization failures, Geva E et al., American Journal of Reproductive Immunology 42(5): 292-6. 1999
ivPregnancy outcome and ovarian antibodies in infertility patients undergoing controlled ovarian hyperstimulation, Luborsky et al., American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 44(5):261-265. 2000