Genetics

Pregnancy Pathway, Pregnancy — Maternal Immunological Response

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Today: Mater­nal Immuno­log­i­cal Response…or…the Mother/Fetus Dance!

Maternal Immune Response During Pregnancy

Mater­nal Immune Response Dur­ing Preg­nan­cy

Back to work! Thank you for your fore­bear­ance while we wrote a chap­ter for a nurs­ing text­book!

Dur­ing the course of preg­nan­cy, the mother/fetus dance is ongo­ing. The mater­nal immune sys­tem and the tro­phoblast cells con­tin­ue to influ­ence each oth­er even beyond the implan­ta­tion.

Because the mother’s immune response mod­u­lates near the start of each trimester, the fetus is affect­ed to some degree and mounts a response, as well. For a long time it was thought that mater­nal and fetal DNA mate­r­i­al was not exchanged across the pla­cen­tal mem­brane, how­ev­er recent find­ings indi­cate that there is some exchange of mate­r­i­al. Thus, we all car­ry some por­tion of our mother’s DNA and our moth­er car­ries some of ours.

What is the impact of this chimeric effect? It depends on how well our DNA gets along!

How does this affect the fetus in utero? The fetus may be affect­ed by clot­ting issues. Depend­ing on mater­nal health sta­tus s/he may be sub­ject to a stronger or weak­er immune sys­tem.

How does this affect the moth­er? Women are more like­ly than men to devel­op autoim­mune dis­or­ders (preg­nan­cy play­ing a role here), and those who bear male off­spring are more like­ly than those who only have girls to have these dis­or­ders.

The maternal/fetal dance goes on.…

Be Prepared for Birth!

Be Pre­pared for Birth!

Pregnancy Pathway, Conception — Prior Sperm Exposure

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Today:  Sperm!!!

For com­plete graph­ic, see Feb. 5 or 23 post.

The mother's prior sperm exposure can affect her pregnancy.

The mother’s pri­or sperm expo­sure can affect her preg­nan­cy.

Not every sperm is your friend! Sperm expo­sure — like so many expo­sures — affects our immune sys­tem. Women who have babies with more than one father may be at risk for dis­or­ders of preg­nan­cy because the chal­lenges to their immune sys­tem have been exten­sive. And, very young women who become preg­nant are at increased risk of some dis­or­ders because they have had very lit­tle expo­sure to sperm.

In addi­tion, women who have pri­mar­i­ly and exten­sive­ly used bar­ri­er meth­ods of con­tra­cep­tion may be at risk for dis­or­ders for rea­sons sim­i­lar to young women with lit­tle expo­sure. Unlike women whose immune sys­tem has had too much chal­lenge due to preg­nan­cies by sev­er­al men, women with lit­tle expo­sure may not have a strong defense against for­eign DNA. Please do not take this as a rea­son to not use a con­dom — one of the bar­ri­er meth­ods along with a diaphragm and cer­vi­cal cap. Rather, if you use a bar­ri­er method of con­tra­cep­tion, keep in mind that your body’s adjust­ment to preg­nan­cy may take time.

For more infor­ma­tion on bar­ri­er meth­ods, to go the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Obste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists’ online pam­phlet: ACOG Pam­phlet on Bar­ri­er Con­tracetp­tion.

Anoth­er way sperm can affect the preg­nan­cy is that the com­bi­na­tion of the mother’s and father’s nat­ur­al immune respons­es may be strong against the tro­phoblast implan­ta­tion. This is not some­thing  you can know ahead of time. Also, women are eight times more like­ly than men to devel­op autoim­mune dis­or­ders. One rea­son may be the pre­na­tal expo­sure to for­eign DNA encoun­tered in preg­nan­cy.

Keep in mind that by get­ting good pre­na­tal care, exer­cise, suf­fi­cient rest, stress man­ag­ment and healthy nutri­tion, you do all with­in your pow­er to have a healthy preg­nan­cy. Your health care provider will deter­mine your risk fac­tors that may affect preg­nan­cy out­come and treat you in an appro­pri­ate man­ner.

Moms and babies enjoy exercise together!

Moms and babies enjoy exer­cise togeth­er!

Once your baby comes, there will be time to max­i­mize health for both of you. Exer­cis­ing togeth­er is great fun!

Get­ting there may require some patience, but the reward is well worth it.

When you are look­ing around for sperm, use your head. The same behav­ior that pro­tects you from infec­tions you nev­er want to get, pro­tects you from sperm you don’t real­ly want to meet. When the time comes to adopt some sperm, find out about it’s cre­den­tials!