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What Are Antiphospholipid Antibodies?

What are antiphospholipid antibodies, and what do they have to do with miscarriage?
ByKaylen M. Silverberg, MD, clinical assistant professor, department of obstetrics and gynecology, division of reproductive endocrinology/infertility, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and reproductive endocrinologist with Texas Fertility Center in Austin, Texas
OB-GYN
Updated
March 2, 2017
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Antibodies are specialized proteins that typically attack germs like bacteria or viruses. But sometimes your body can mistakenly produce antibodies that attack a substance that wouldn’t normally be harmful — in this case, it’s your own tissues and cells. Phospholipids are a type of fat in your blood that plays an important role in clotting. So antiphospholipid antibodies are the antibodies your body might make to attack the phospholipids. Long story short: If you develop antiphospholipid antibodies, your blood may clot abnormally.

This is important in pregnancy, because phospholipids are a key component of the placenta. If you become pregnant and have these antibodies, your placenta could form clots in the blood vessels, blocking off the important transmission of oxygen and nutrients to your baby and preventing waste products from leaving the sac. Antiphospholipid syndrome is often a cause of recurrent pregnancy loss. It’s not terribly common, but if you’ve suffered from more than one pregnancy loss, it may be the problem. The good news is that the condition is treatable. Medications like baby aspirin or  heparin can help thin your blood enough to prevent the clots from forming, so your baby can continue to grow without risk.

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