Antiphospholipid syndrome (sticky blood), is an autoimmune disorder which causes an increased risk of blood clots. People with this condition are at an increased risk of developing:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Arterial thrombosis
- Blood clots in the brain
- Pregnant women have an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth
What causes antiphospholipid syndrome?
With antiphospholipid syndrome the immune system attacks healthy tissue; abnormal antibodies are produced which target proteins attached to fat molecules, making the blood more likely to clot.
Diagnosing antiphospholipid syndrome
Blood tests are used to diagnose antiphospholipid syndrome; these tests look for antibodies responsible antiphospholipid syndrome.
How antiphospholipid syndrome is treated
Antiphospholipid syndrome cannot be cured; however, it can be managed successfully. Blood thinning injections, such as fragmin can be self-administered and aspirin can also be taken to help thin the blood. These medications can also improve a pregnant woman’s chance of having a successful pregnancy.
Antiphospholipid syndrome can cause recurrent miscarriage or stillbirth, as well as other pregnancy complications. At least 15% of recurrent miscarriages occur as a result of antiphospholipid syndrome, and with prompt treatment, the pregnancy success rate has risen from 20% before 1990 to over 80% today.
Pregnant ladies are usually treated daily with low dose (75mg) aspirin, and if a previous loss has occurred in the second or third trimesters they may also be given fragmin injections.
Pregnancies can be affected in a number of ways:
Early pregnancy loss
Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks; antiphospholipid antibodies can cause early miscarriages by preventing the embryo from embedding properly in the womb. Early miscarriages are common, and there are many possible causes. Therefore, women will not be tested for antiphospholipid antibodies until they have three consecutive early miscarriages.
Late pregnancy loss
In most pregnancies foetal death in the second and third trimesters is rare; however, it is strongly associated with antiphospholipid syndrome and therefore women with a late pregnancy loss should be tested for antiphospholipid antibodies. Women with antiphospholipid syndrome can develop clots in the placenta or around the cord which reduces the baby’s oxygen supply.
Pre-eclampsia is twice as likely to occur in women with antiphospholipid syndrome.
Intrauterine growth restriction
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) are babies with a very low birthweight and they usually weigh less than 90% of babies at the same gestational age. With antiphospholipid syndrome the reduced blood flow to the placenta can cause the baby to be small for dates.