Recurrent Miscarriage: Hughes Syndrome Explained

Hughes Syndrome is one of the most common causes of recurrent miscarriages, but the good news is it's easily treatable.

What is Hughes syndrome?

Hughes syndrome (also known as Antiphospholipid syndrome or APS) is a condition that causes an increased risk of blood clots.

It is an auto-immune condition that causes a person's immune system (which usually protects the body from illness), to produce abnormal antibodies called antiphospholipid antibodies, which makes the blood stickier and more likely to clot.

How is Hughes Syndrome linked to miscarriages?

According to the charity The Hughes Syndrome Foundation:

"In pregnancy, APS can increase the chance of stillbirth by three to five times; it is also associated with other complications such as pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction and premature birth."

The majority of miscarriages in women with Hughes Syndrome occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is thought that the antiphospholipid antibodies prevent the foetus from embedding in the womb.

Losing a baby in the second or third trimester is much more rare, but again it can be associated with Hughes Syndrome. In these instances, the antiphospholipid antibodies are thought to cause clots in the delicate veins in the placenta, preventing it from passing on nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

Could I have Hughes Syndrome?

Hughes Syndrome doesn't always cause noticeable symptoms, but some people with the condition may experience:

- Balance and mobility problems

- Vision problems

- Speech and memory problems

- A tingling sensation or pins and needles in the arms or legs

- Extreme tiredness

- Repeated headaches or migraines

If your doctor suspects you have Hughes Syndrome, you should be referred for blood tests designed to identify the antibodies responsible for Hughes Syndrome.

As there are many other possible causes of early miscarriage, women who have miscarried in the first trimester of pregnancy are not tested for Hughes Syndrome until they have had three miscarriages.

What can be done if I have Hughes Syndrome?

There is no cure for Hughes Syndrome but with the right treatment the risk of miscarrying or developing blood clots can be greatly reduced.

Treatment usually involves an anticoagulant (anti-clotting) medication, such as warfarin or low-dose aspirin, that either comes in tablet form or is injected. Pregnant women will be given injections of heparin rather than warfarin - as warfarin is potentially harmful to the baby.

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