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The role of oxidative stress in spontaneous abortion and recurrent pregnancy loss: a systematic review


Human reproduction is not considered a highly efficient biological process. Before the end of the first trimester, 30%-50% of conceptions end in spontaneous abortion. Most losses occur at the time of implantation. 15%-20% of clinical pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions. Recurrent pregnancy loss is a frustrating clinical problem both for clinicians and patients. Recurrent pregnancy loss affects 0.5%-3% of women in the reproductive age group, and between 50%-60% of recurrent pregnancy losses are idiopathic. Oxidative stress-induced damage has been hypothesized to play a role in spontaneous abortion, idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss, hydatidiform mole, defective embryogenesis, and drug-induced teratogenicity. Some studies implicate systemic and placental oxidative stress in the pathophysiology of abortion and recurrent pregnancy loss. Oxidant-induced endothelial damage, impaired placental vascularization and immune malfunction have all been proposed to play a role in the pathophysiology of idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss. Oxidative stress-induced placental dysfunction may be a common cause of the multifactorial and polygenic etiologies of abortion, recurrent pregnancy loss, defective embryogenesis, hydatidiform mole, and drug-induced teratogenic effects. Oxidative stress-induced modification of phospholipids has been linked to the formation of antiphospholipid antibodies in the antiphospholipid syndrome. The objective of this review was to examine the association between oxidative stress, spontaneous abortion and recurrent pregnancy loss, based on the published literature. We conducted an extensive literature search utilizing the databases of Medline, CINAHL, and Cochrane from 1986 to 2005. The following keywords were used: oxidative stress, abortion, recurrent pregnancy loss, reactive oxygen species, antioxidants, fetal development, and embryopathies. We conducted an electronic search, as well as a manual search of cross-references. We have included all studies in the English language found in the literature focusing on oxidative stress and its association with abortions, recurrent pregnancy loss and drug-induced teratogenicity. The role of antioxidant vitamins for primary prevention of oxidative stress-induced pathologies needs to be investigated further.

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Carolyn Ledowsky

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