If you thought your baby’s affect on your body ended once you gave birth to your bundle of joy, you’re in for a major surprise! Turns out, baby cells stay inside a mother for decades after pregnancy. Yes, decades! Research says for up to 38 years! Read on to learn more about the fascinating way pregnancy changes us until well after our kids are having kids of their own!
Baby Cells Stay Inside A Mother For Decades After Pregnancy
I have two kids and becoming a mother completely changed my life. It changed my body (goodbye flat belly). My emotions (I now cry over pretty much everything, even TV commercials). And my freedom (no more sleeping through the night or privacy).
When I became a mom, I also experienced those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry. My brain changed as well. Becoming a mother changes EVERYTHING!
Yes, becoming a mother changes your life forever. See my Top 5 Reasons Why Mothers Feel Guilty All The Time and find out why we change, worry, and feel guilty about a lot of things. But now let’s see just how much pregnancy changes us for many, many years beyond the nine months leading up to our baby’s arrival. This information below is simply amazing to me!
Motherhood Changes Us on a Cellular Level
According to a new US study, our babies’ actual cells, as in from when we carried them inside, stay in our bodies, even long after the pregnancy itself is over. In fact, the cells can stick around in a mother’s body for up to 38 years after the baby has been born. Researchers have labeled the phenomenon “fetal microchimerism.”
No, not the fire-breathing lioness with a head of a goat from Greek mythology type of chimera (although that’s where the word originated). In biology, a chimera is “an organism containing a mixture of genetically different tissues, formed by processes such as fusion of early embryos, grafting, or mutation.” Looks like the dictionary is going to have to add one more potential cause to that list- pregnancy.
If you think this is both strange and amazing, there is more:
The cells don’t just stay on in our uteri (which I literally just learned is the plural for “uterus”), they migrate throughout our entire bodies. Our baby’s leftover cells spread their proverbial wings and “fly.” They find new homes, settling in our brains, livers, lungs, and other organs, Once there, they actually re-map our own cells, giving them back a new life of their own.
This is how, Amy Boddy, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, explained what they have discovered:
“Fetal cells can act as stem cells and develop into epithelial cells, specialized heart cells, liver cells and so forth. This shows that they are very dynamic and play a huge role in the maternal body. They can even migrate to the brain and differentiate into neurons. We are all chimeras.”
According to the study, fetal cells begin their migration out of the womb and into mother’s body during pregnancy, when they direct nutrients and life-giving abilities to the baby. They also play an important role in keeping our immune system from seeing our growing child as a foreign body or “virus” that needs to be eliminated.
So, as you can see, those fetal cells floating around your bloodstream and body play a significantly vital role during pregnancy. What about after, though? Do these remnants help or hurt us? That’s what researchers set out to discover next.
Do our baby’s leftover cells help or hurt us?
Turns out, a little bit of both, at least as far as preliminary research says. The bad news first (don’t worry, there’s a whole lot of good news coming up next). Some studies found that leftover fetal cells can contribute to autoimmune diseases. These are diseases that basically cause your immune system to attack your body. For years, we’ve known that women are more likely to develop them than men. Now, we may know why.
Now, the good news. Research has also discovered many ways in which these leftover fetal cells can actually help us throughout our lives. According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, fetal cells may provide protection against breast cancer. Could that be why women who were pregnant at least once have a lower rate of breast cancer? It’s too early to say, but definitely something that deserves a closer look by scientists.
Microchimerism may also boost your body’s overall immune surveillance. That’s the body’s ability to recognize and destroy pathogens and cells that might become cancerous. It may also play a role in the repair of damaged tissue, helping form new blood vessels to heal wounds. Microchimerism is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer.
So yes, pregnancy can change your body in unexpected and sometimes unwelcome ways. However, it may also help protect you from even scarier diseases down the line and even save your life. Remember, though, all of this research, both good and not-so-good, is still relatively new. We still need many more studies to completely verify both the good and the bad news. In other words, don’t let this be a major factor when deciding whether or not to try for a baby.
To me, this is just AMAZING!
Your babies truly are a part of you for many years and, more often than not, make you stronger. We know that statistically women live longer than men, but we really don’t know why. Well, I think this may be it!
FYI, I first learned about this Baby Cells Stay Inside A Mother For Decades After Pregnancy news at HerFamily. As always, though, I did my own research through reputable study databases. If you are interested in reading more about my blog, please take a look at my latest articles. I am a mom blogger who loves to share creative and healthy fun food ideas, family activities, natural remedies, parenting advice, and tips for living a healthy lifestyle.