Anyone who has ever had a baby will tell you that motherhood is, indeed, life-changing.
It changes your priorities, your outlook, your habits, your emotions and your body.
And not just in the form of a less flat tummy or stretch marks on your boobs.
No, becoming a mother even changes your on a cellular level, a new study has found.
According to some US researchers who were studying how fetal cells influence mum's health during pregnancy, our babies' cells actually stay behind in our bodies long after we give birth – and this can have a massive impact on our health.
In fact, the scientists found that fetal cells from our babies can stick around in a mother’s body for up to 38 years after the baby has been born, a phenomenon known as “fetal microchimerism.”
Amazing? I know.
And it doesn't even end there. The cells don't stay put in our uterus, they move on and migrate throughout our entire bodies, finding new homes, settling in our hearts, lungs, livers, brain and other organs. And once there, they actually re-map our own cells, giving them back a new life of their own.
According to the study, these fetal cells begin their migration out of the womb and into the mother’s body during pregnancy, when they direct nutrients and life-giving abilities to the baby. They actually 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.
It makes you think, doesn't it? About how the bond we feel with our children can be so strong and powerful. It really makes sense when you realise their cells have even merged with our own cells. We are actually one.
Amy Boddy, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology was the lead author of the research above, and here is what she had to say about the groundbreaking study:
“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.”
Amazingly, research has also discovered that these leftover fetal cells can actually help make us stronger and healthier. According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, fetal cells may provide protection against breast cancer. Scientists have more studying to do on the matter, but what we do know already, is that women how have been pregnant at least once, actually do have a slightly lower chance of developing breast cancer than women who have never been pregnant. And maybe this plays a part.
Microchimerism, studies found, 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. As well as that, microchimerism is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Clearly, the scientists are keen to point out, more research is needed on all of the above, but how exciting and amazing is this? Your baby's leftover cells can actually end up protecting you from illness way down the road.
Having been pregnant twice, I just find it amazing to know that part of my babies, who are now 10 and six, is still inside me, having merged with my own body and cells. Women's bodies are truly amazing.