The RIA Story: How We Started Our Reproductive Immunology Lab

Reproductive Immunology AssociatesIn the late 1980s, three physicians, Dr. William L. Matzner, Dr. Penny J. Chong, and Dr. Wendell T. W. Ching, came together to begin one of the first reproductive immunology labs in the United States. Since that time they have researched, collaborated with other physicians, and successfully diagnosed and treated hundreds of couples unable to carry a pregnancy to term due to recurrent miscarriage. Here is their story…

reproductive immunology serendipitySerendipity best describes how we came to specialize in helping cou­ples who have suffered repeated miscarriages. We did­n’t plan to specialize in reproductive immunology!

In the 1980’s, we were conducting medical research about the immunology of a disease called Lupus. Lupus (aka Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.

In our research, we noticed that the rate of miscarriage for women suffering from lupus was unusually high. We checked our observation against the medical literature of the time and saw that our observation was verified. All of a sudden, we became aware of a whole sub-population of couples who repeatedly miscarried for no identifi­able reason.

These couples may have been very much like you and/or someone you love. Their reproductive systems appeared to be normal. Yet the women were unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Some had lost five, six and even seven babies to miscarriage. We thought there might be more going on here than chance.

So, we began the time consuming task of researching the subject of recurrent miscarriage. At the time, there was a lot written about the causes and treatment of infertility in the medical literature. Recurrent miscarriages took a back seat to infertility and other popular topics. But we persisted and teamed up with some of the foremost experts in the field of miscarriages.

Soon we were convinced that most women who suffer repeated miscarriages did so because of immunological factors, not because of “luck,” some metaphysical pun­ishment for past wrong doing, or fate, as the myths and fables about the topic often have it. Recurrent miscarriage has a physical cause, just as other illnesses or diseases that afflict the human condition.

It turns out that a major cause of recurrent miscarriage is the woman’s own immune system, that vital biological function that normally protects the body from disease and infection. Sometimes, the immune system takes a wrong turn and attacks the fetus or otherwise prevents a healthy and normal gestation.

This was good news. Why? We knew that  the physical conditions which most frequently cause repeated miscarriage are often treatable. That meant that we could help couples make their dreams of family come true. This was work to which we eagerly decided to dedicate ourselves. It was for this purpose that in 1989 we created Reproductive Immunology Associates (RIA).

RIA is dedicated to helping couples overcome the tragedy of recurrent miscarriages. Since its creation, we have taken an active role educating couples about miscarriage through semi­nars, written materials and other media. They are then able to make informed decisions about whether to try and conceive again and, if so, what can be done to maximize the chances of carrying the pregnancy to term. Our book, Miscarriages Can Be Prevented, was published as part of this effort.

Of course, in our reproductive immunology practice, we do more than educate. We have devoted our medical practice to diagnosing and treating couples who want a baby but have been unable to have one because of immunological impedi­ments. We operate one of the few reproductive immunology laboratories in the country, conducting important tests for a variety of immunologic issues. Only a few other physicians have dedicated their practices to reproductive immunology.

Our work in reproductive immunology is extremely rewarding and satisfying. First, to see a cou­ple, full of sadness, fear, and sometimes guilt, realize that there is hope is really fulfilling. Then, we see them buckle down and accept treatment that may make it possible for them to start a family; see our patients become pregnant and then carry to term. That is truly miraculous.

We have seen new life brought into the world where before there was nothing but heartache and doubts hun­dreds and hundreds of times. The pictures of our patients’ new babies – children who would probably not be here but for the treatment we offer – well, that is an experience that simply can­ not be described. If you have suffered repeated miscarriages, chances are that you can experience the joy of having a baby or, as some of our patients can attest, babies.

Two fundamental questions must be faced if that “miracle” is to take place:

1) What were the cause(s) of the previous miscarriages?

2) Is treatment available?

In our practice we address both of these questions in the initial consultation. We assess each situation, administer the right tests to identify causes and prescribe the right treatments. In this process, you will see that there is much more to reproduction than understanding the birds and the bees and the workings of the female body.

Having a baby is intense and intricate, involving not only organs but an complex dance of body chemistry – specifically the immune system. If the immune system works improperly, if any step is missed, the result can be a lost pregnancy. And, unfortunately, if the immune system destroyed one pregnancy, chances are, it will destroy the next, and the next and the next if proper treatment is not prescribed and administered.

For most couples, couples like you, couples who want a baby but have repeatedly lost that the very thing they want, there is hope. Help really is available. It takes time and determination. It will take intricate and delicate medical treatment. But that child you have so desperately wanted yet has seemed forever just out of reach, may be with you sooner than you can imagine.

We are here to serve you.

For more information please visit our website and schedule a consultation.  Since 1989, we have worked with hundreds of couples to treat their reproductive immunology issues so that they can have the family they want.

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