Endocrine factors associated with recurrent spontaneous abortion.

C B Coulam
J J Stern


The role of endocrine factors as a cause of recurrent spontaneous abortion is controversial. Diabetes mellitus and thyroid disease do not represent a significant risk factor for recurrent pregnancy loss. Luteal-phase defect has been questioned because there are no accurate methods for diagnosis and no convincing evidence of correction with treatment exists. The corpus luteum is an unusual endocrine gland, highly diverse in function and important for successful reproduction in all mammalian species. Much controversy exists about the luteal function in humans and how defects in luteal function affects reproduction. Disagreement has been due to lack of accurate diagnosis and controlled studies to determine whether correction of the luteal-phase defect is worthwhile when treating female reproductive problems. The donor egg recipient model from assisted reproductive technology programs has shown that corpus luteum function can be replaced by estrogen and progesterone administration. The mechanism by which these steroids stimulate a uterus to be receptive to implantation of the embryo is not known. Several proteins produced by the endometrium are candidate markers for uterine receptivity. Further work needs to be done to correlate these markers with subsequent pregnancy outcome. A noninvasive marker for uterine receptivity is ultrasonographic evaluation of the endometrium. Although the sensitivity of this test is high (100%), its specificity is low (only 20% to 60%).