Research Reveals That Moms and Babies Are Connected in Surprising Ways

Mother and Child

Your baby never really leaves your body after those 9 months of pregnancy are over, Tufts University researchers recently discovered. A baby’s cells can migrate from the placenta and fetus to stay inside the mom long-term.

The Tufts team, studying pregnant mice, found fetal and placenta cells inside a mother mouse’s lungs. Those cells, the scientists say, remain in the mothers’ bodies for decades.”During pregnancy, cells from each fetus travel into maternal (blood) circulation and organs,” their study reports.

How the left-behind fetal flotsam penetrates the placenta is a mystery. The researchers theorize that leaks form in the placenta as the birth day draws closer.

The team identified the fetal cells as immune cells and clusters of connective tissue. They theorized that the immune cells may prevent the mother’s immune system from rejecting the fetus as a genetic intruder. In other words, your baby becomes a part of you during pregnancy so that your body doesn’t reject it.

Baby cells swarming through mommy may sound like a sci-fi thriller that ends badly. But besides protecting the unborn baby from rejection, the fetal cells also are protective of mothers. Those fetal immune cells found in the mother’s lungs rushed to support her heart when it was injured. The fetal cells are stem cells, with a healing power similar to that found in umbilical cord blood.

The research hasn’t solved all the puzzles. For example, fetal cells seem drawn to tumors. No one knows whether the cells fight tumors, or enable them.

Here is a link to the study, which was published today in Biology of Reproduction.

What do you think of the idea that your baby’s cells are now a part of your body? Amazing? Weird?