During pregnancy, the mother’s body needs to physically adjust to make room for the baby. Organs get squeezed into a space that is much smaller than normal – the liver and lungs move upwards, and the bladder gets squashed (see interactive video here http://www.msichicago.org/experiment/make-room-for-baby/). On top of that, when the baby moves, the mum can feel it.
In addition to the fight for personal space, pregnancy can make the mum want very strange food; soap, chalk, mud, you name it! The craving for consumption of these non-food substances is known as pica. It has been suggested that pica is caused by mineral deficiencies, such as iron deficiency.
Lastly, what really bugs me is that the cells from the babies actually travel to, and reside in, different organs of the mother! For a start, you can screen for the gender, or even genetic conditions, from the mum’s blood! Not only do they get in the blood, they stay in the mum’s brain! When fetal cells establish itself within the mother, it is known as fetal microchimerism. Researchers have found 63% of the females they studied had a male-specific gene (easier to study) in multiple regions of the brain. On the plus side, the researchers also found that these cells are more common in women without Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s possible they help the mother’s health? Another research group has found that in rats, fetal microchimeric cells can act like stem cells, migrating to mother’s heart and repairing it after the maternal heart is injured. Maybe babies aren’t all that bad after all.
It’s Mother’s day for the most countries in the world this Sunday (second Sunday of May), so happy Mother’s day!
Male microchimerism in the human female brain: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23049819
Fetal cell repairing maternal heart injury: http://circres.ahajournals.org/content/110/1/82