The Wonder of Mothers: Fetal Cells

May celebrates Mother's Day. Throughout the month, Giving Birth with Confidence is posting on The Wonder of Mothers, a series dedicated to sharing some of the many ways mothers' bodies are beautifully designed to grow, birth, and nourish her baby.


The Wonder of Mothers: Fetal Cells

Earlier this year, I came across an article and learned that long after I am done being pregnant, long after birth, and long after my children are having their own children, my body will still contain cells from the children who once called my womb "home." The article, by author Jena Pincott of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy, states that, "for any woman that has ever been pregnant, some of her baby's cells may circulate in her bloodstream for as long as she lives. Those cells often take residence in her lungs, spinal cord, skin, thyroid gland, liver, intestine, cervix, gallbladder, spleen, lymph nodes, and blood vessels."


People always talk about the special connection that mothers have with their children. About how some mothers, while many miles away, can sense when their child is in trouble or in need. But this! This says that children are literally, scientifically, biologically, physically connected to their mothers! For as long as I live, my children will always be with me, even when they're not.

Beyond the sentimental aspect of this fact, the science is quite amazing. Pincott explains:

During pregnancy, cells sneak across the placenta in both directions. The fetus's cells enter his mother, and the mother's cells enter the fetus. A baby's cells are detectable in his mother's bloodstream as early as four weeks after conception, and a mother's cells are detectable in her fetus by week 13. In the first trimester, one out of every fifty thousand cells in her body are from her baby-to-be (this is how some noninvasive prenatal tests check for genetic disorders). In the second and third trimesters, the count is up to one out of every thousand maternal cells. At the end of the pregnancy, up to 6 percent of the DNA in a pregnant woman's blood plasma comes from the fetus. After birth, the mother's fetal cell count plummets, but some stick around for the long haul. Those lingerers create their own lineages. Imagine colonies in the motherland.

I hope you've enjoyed our mini-series on The Wonder of Mothers in celebration of Mother's Day -- may you marvel at the many wonderful things a mother's body does! 

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