Your Immune System During Pregnancy

Just like the rest of your body, your immune system is constantly changing during pregnancy. For years it was believed that your immune system during pregnancy was weak to ensure your body didn’t reject the growing embryo and to put more bodily energy into the developing baby. But new research shows that may not be true.

The immune system is complex in the most normal of circumstances so you can imagine that it is all the more complicated when pregnancy is involved. Studies now show that immune cells are present at the implantation site after an egg is fertilized, not to attack it, but to help it survive.

Your Immune System During PregnancyAccording to recent research from the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, throughout the first trimester, immune cells create an inflammatory response to encourage the success rate of an embryo. This is much the same way your body creates inflammation while healing a wound. It’s a protective measure and it shows the body is working properly.

During the second trimester and early third trimester anti-inflammatory immune cells take over to protect the growing baby. Some fetal cells express an antibody that comes from the father. Under normal circumstances a mother’s body might find this to be a foreign attack. During pregnancy it forms specialized anti-inflammatory white blood cells called Tregs that help protect the fetus.

Towards the end of pregnancy a mother’s body goes back into pro-inflammatory mode, which allows labor and delivery to occur. The researchers at Stanford believe premature birth can occur if there is a mix-up in immune system responses. And if that’s the case, perhaps there is a way to determine risk of premature birth from a simple blood test.

Despite the evolving immune system during pregnancy, experts still agree pregnant women are more susceptible to colds, coughs and the flu during pregnancy. In the case of the flu, researchers at Stanford found that the immune cells in pregnant women go into overdrive to attack and get rid of the virus, at least in a petrie dish. Although this shows great immune strength, the ferocity in which the immune system attacks could be harmful to mothers and babies.

That is one reason why getting a flu shot is so important during pregnancy. It not only protects mothers from getting sick and avoiding an over-the-top immune response, it also protects unborn babies who will be too young to get the shots themselves when they are born.

Your immune system during pregnancy may not be as strong as usual but you can do a few things to keep yourself as healthy as possible. The first is washing your hands often and staying away from people who are sick. Also, eat vitamin-rich whole foods such as green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, exercise and take a prenatal vitamin too.

Sources: Medical News Today, Science News and She Knows