Are you thinking of immortalizing your pregnancy with a breast milk jewelry or a fancy engraved bracelet? It turns out that your body already did that for you. There is really nothing stronger than a mother's bond with her child -- and it lasts until your child is well into adulthood. Now, science has proof that your pregnancy stays with you for life.
A new study by the researchers at the Arizona State University (ASU) has found that “fetal cells”, or cells from the fetus in a mother’s womb, can leave the placenta and take residence in different areas of the mother’s body and revamp the mother's cells into new ones. These fetal cells start migration throughout a mothers body early on in a pregnancy--a phenomenon known as fetal microchimerism.
“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,” says Amy Boddy, the study’s lead author and a researcher at ASU, explained in a press release. “We are all chimeras.”
'Chimera' refers to a creature from Greek mythology that’s made up of body parts of different animals. Fetal microchimerism works in pretty much the same way, in that the mother will be made up of the fetal cells of all her offspring.
Fetal microchimerism may have both beneficial and detrimental effects to a mother's body:
The fetal cells may act like a placenta outside the womb, where it can "redirect" the nutrients for the woman's body. Study co-author Wilson Sayres likens it to a tug of war: "There is also a mutual desire for the maternal system to survive and provide nutrients and for the fetal system to survive and pass on DNA.” Another downside is that it can contribute to developing autoimmune disroders, where fetal cells are recognized as a foreign body and is therefore rejected by the mother's body.
Some data on fetal microchimerism and health also suggests that if it takes the form of some maternal tissues, fetal cells can form a cooperative relationship with the maternal cells. For example, data has shown that fetal cells found on cesarean wounds are a great help in moving around the body to repair damaged tissue.
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More research is needed to find out if mothers also carry fetal cells that resulted in miscarriages.
So the next time you think of that special bond between a mother and child, know that it is not just based on emotional attachment but on an actual cellular level. Mothers are literally changed by their kids, and they wouldn't have it any other way--even if it means losing a part of themselves along the way.
September 9, 2015. "Research Proves a Part of Your Baby Remains In Your Body For Up To 38 Years” (babble.com)
August 28, 2015. “Fetal cells influence mom's health during pregnancy—and long after” (asu.edu)