A mother’s physical and emotional connection to her child continues to keep scientists in awe. Revered throughout time, the bond between mother and child transcends cultures and languages as one of the strongest connections we have as humans. And a little bit of science may be able to reveal why. Jena Pincott explains that even after a mother gives birth, her baby’s cells remain inside her body — and work tiny wonders. In an excerpt from her book Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?, Pincott explains that pregnancy is really only the beginning for mother and baby cell-sharing.
She writes on BoingBoing that an embryo’s cells can be found in a mother’s bloodstream after only four weeks of conception. But by the end of the first trimester, one out of everything 50,000 cells in mommy’s body are from her soon-to-be son or daughter. As her pregnancy develops, we’re looking at one out of every 1,000 of the mother’s cells as coming from baby — and about 6% of her DNA in her blood plasma comes from her child too. [tagbox tag=”pregnancy”]
Once birth happens, this number drops significantly, but fetal cells stick around to help mothers fight disease:
Fetal cells show up significantly more often in the breast tissue of women who don’t have breast cancer than in women who do (43 versus 14 percent). Why is this? Fetal cells are foreign to the mother because they contain DNA from the baby’s father. One theory is that this ”otherness” stimulates the mother’s immune system just enough to help keep malignant cells in check. The more fetal cells there are in a woman’s body, the less active are autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. These conditions improve during pregnancy and for some time afterward ”” suggesting that the mother’s immune system is more focused on attacking the ”other,” not herself.
Pincott adds that some fetal cells can also “migrate to injury sites” and speed up healing, as well as minimize scars after pregnancy and normalize skin structure — meaning that baby is helping to restore mommy! Something to keep in mind in that first year of motherhood when sleep is impossible and you feel that the bundle in the next room is usurping your will to live. Remember, if you have a diseased thyroid, you can thank your offspring for a speedy recovery.