Pregnancy & The Immune System; The Miraculous Nature Of Gestation

Pregnancy & The Immune System

When researching for this edition of Holistic Living Magazine focused on the Immune system, I found some fascinating information pertaining to the interrelation and connectivity between the maternal and foetal immune systems during pregnancy.

Here Is A List Of 6 Interesting Facts Regarding Pregnancy & The Immune System.

  1. A mother’s uterus should technically reject and regard their developing baby as foreign – but it doesn’t.

During gestation, the maternal immune system develops what is known as a tolerance to the foetus. Immune tolerance in pregnancy, otherwise referred to as “gestational maternal immune tolerance”, is the absence of a maternal immune response against the foetus and the placenta.

It is this tolerance that explains why the mother doesn’t reject the growing baby even though by nature it contains the genetic material of the father and should, therefore, be considered a foreign entity.

Maternal immune tolerance is a unique example of how the immune system adapts what would normally be a destructive response to a state of tolerance.

  1. The placenta forms an immunological barrier and a remarkable communication organ between mother and baby

The placenta is attached to the lining of a mother’s uterus as well as to the baby’s umbilical cord.

It begins to form in week 4 of pregnancy and continues to develop over the next couple of months, coming fully “online” to support the developing baby at around 12 weeks of gestation.

One of the placenta’s main roles is to allow the transfer of nutrients and oxygenated blood from the mother to the baby; it also disposes of the baby’s waste back to the mother. This system is referred to as the placental circulation.

The placenta also produces hormones and builds a defense system that acts as a shield for the baby, providing protection against many types of bacteria and infections.

This process involves transferring antibodies from the maternal blood supply to the foetal circulation; it is this process that gives the foetus passive immunity that can provide effective protection from specific infections.

The mother delivers this amazing temporary organ, soon after the baby is born in what is known as the third stage of labour. 

  1. The hormones of pregnancy can provide temporary remission from some chronic conditions. 

Maternal tolerance may help explain why some autoimmune disease symptoms are lessened in pregnancy. Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system launches an inflammatory response against your own body.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells, it is characterised by the formation of red and crusty patches and silvery scales or plaques.

Many women report a significant improvement in their psoriasis during pregnancy; a 2005 report attributed this improvement to the increased levels of oestrogen relative to progesterone during pregnancy.

Expectant mothers with Multiple Sclerosis can also see their symptoms vastly improve or even disappear, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Finally, many women with Rheumatoid Arthritis report significant relief from joint pain during pregnancy.

The mechanisms of these immune modifications in pregnancy are still being studied and typically, the pregnancy doesn’t usually provide a permanent cure for these conditions, which generally return fairly soon in the postpartum period.

  1. Normal vaginal delivery involves the seeding of the baby’s microbiome and the subsequent development of their lifelong immune system.

The human microbiome contains the genetic material of all the microbes-bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on and inside the human body.

The majority of these microbes live in our gut, particularly in the large intestine and current research suggests that between 70-80 percent of our immune tissue lies within our digestive system.

It was once thought that babies in utero were in a completely sterile environment, but it is now commonly known that mothers do transfer gut microbiota via the placental circulation.

In the weeks and days leading up to birth, specific species of good bacteria are migrating to key locations in the mother’s body and are transferred to the baby during and immediately after birth via the birth canal, exposure to faecal bacteria, immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth and with the initiation of breastfeeding.

This process kick starts the colonization of the baby’s gut with bacteria from the mother and it is those microbes that have the earliest and most significant influence on the development of the baby’s immune system and helps to protect the infant from disease for its entire lifetime!

  1. Breast milk is nature’s first immune booster!

Colostrum is an early form of milk…..

You can read the FULL version of this article in our quarterly eZine, ‘Holistic Living Magazine,’ look for Edition 5 on this archive page.  There’s many more articles about the immune system waiting for you too!

Katie KempsterKatie Kempster – Hypnobirthing Expert

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