Mother's Immune System Can Pick Up Disease, Complications During Pregnancy: Study

The immune system behaves in different ways during the different stages of pregnancy

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahPublished at: Dec 30, 2021Updated at: Dec 30, 2021
Mother's Immune System Can Pick Up Disease, Complications During Pregnancy: Study

Your immune system is your body’s defense system. It protects you from things it sees as foreign objects, such as pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. The need to build a strong immune system has been further highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a strong immune system can ward off SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for this deadly disease. Now a study conducted in Norway has brought to light another function carried out by it. As per the study involving 77 pregnant women, the mother’s immune system can detect abnormalities and diseases during pregnancy, several media houses reported. The prompt analysis can help in dealing with the situation better.

About The Study

Pregnancy is a challenging experience for any woman

(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

The study was undertaken by researchers at the  Centre for Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). 

  • The group of researchers studied inflammation during the different stages of pregnancy.
  • For this, they studied 77 women with healthy pregnancies, who went on to give full-term or post-term births.
  • The study has brought to light how the immune system behaves during the different stages of pregnancy. 

Immune System Can Detect Abnormalities During Pregnancy: Study

Immune system reacts to pregnancy

(Photo Credit: Freepik)

For this study, blood samples were collected from 77 pregnant women. This was to study inflammatory conditions in the body, if there was any strain on the baby, as well as, any early signs of an immunological disorder. Notably, the immune system sees certain cells of the fetus as foreign. Before delving into the study findings, let’s understand a molecule called cytokines. According to Anders Hagen Jarmund, who is a research programme student and was part of the study, cytokines are the cell-signalling molecules that regulate the immune system. These are capable of both triggering and halting the immune response. 

  • The scientists noted that throughout pregnancy, the immune system follows a set pattern. During the first three months, its activity increases, followed by a period (three months) of relative calm. The immune activity increases again during the last three months as the baby is about to be born. 
  • The research programme student Anders Hagen Jarmund noted that that the findings can serve as a reference to determine what is normal at different stages of pregnancy. He said by comparing the blood samples with those of women involved in the study, any pregnancy-related abnormalities can be detected quite early.
  • With early detection, doctors can better diagnose if there is an increased risk of developing a disease. Follow-ups can be taken up then. 
  • Jarmund further noted that the changes in the activity of immune system detected with the help of cytokine profiling are so “sensitive” that they are even able to capture the effects of smoking and obesity in the expecting mother. 
  • The immune system also reacts if the baby is stunted, and also on the basis of whether it’s a boy or a girl. 
  • Another thing that researchers saw was the difference in the immune activity among those having their first child and those with multiple pregnancies. In women who had given birth previously, their immune system got activated more during the first few months. However, the activity was lower in the last three months as compared to those who were about to give birth for the first time. Also, strong immune activation was seen among women who went over term. The reason could be stress. 

Professor Ann-Charlotte Iversen, who led the research, said that once these changes in immune system are mapped to ascertain what changes characterise which abnormalities, it would show which abnormalities to look for to detect disease development, a leading media house reported. Such a sensitive technology can help in detecting high-risk pregnancies, which can help experts to follow-up with the mother and child more closely, she added. 

Photo Credit: Freepik