The immune system has a great role in our body. When foreign particles enter our body, the immune system can recognize and start defense mechanisms such as the complement system and others. But when sperm enters into the female organism, why does her immune system not recognize this? In that time which kind of mechanism is active in the woman's body?

  • $\begingroup$ The obvious, if simplistic, answer seems to be one of evolutionary exclusion. If the female did develop an immune reaction to sperm, the individuals with this quality would not be able to reproduce, and the trait would die out. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 15 '17 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ "But when sperm enters into the female organism"... sperm never enters the female organism. The lumina of vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes is external to the body. Fecundation, by the way, happens outside the female body. Only 1 week after that the embryo actually "enters" the female body (implantation). $\endgroup$
    – user24284
    Jun 18 '17 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ Also, it's worth mentioning that the immune system will attack the sperm cells if they enter the organism of the very male that produced them. Sperm cells in a male, from the rete testis to the urethra, are always outside the body. $\endgroup$
    – user24284
    Jun 18 '17 at 11:04

These questions are not completely easy to answer, since the immune reaction in this area is not completely understood. There are two different mechanisms which play a role here:

Semen is immunogenic and can cause the generation of specific antibodies against it in men and women. The main question here is if the presence of semen in the females reproductive tract is the consequence of a suppressed immune reaction or because it is not recognized. There are indications for both possibilities but I think the first is a bit stronger. The mucus from the vagina is immunosuppressive as well as the seminal fluid, which contains prostaglandins which have the same effect. Have a look at this article for some more background:

For the situation in the uterus between mother and fetus the situation is better understood. This is the so called immune privilege of some tissues (among them are the uterus, testes and the eye) where immune reactions are suppressed.

The placenta forms an immunologic barrier which seperates mother and fetus. This is done by secreting immunomodulary substances and also by the subpression of some T cell subpopulations. For more details see here. This is a highly developed system to protect the developing fetus (which is foreign) from the mothers immune system.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.