The wonder world of fetal microchimerism

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Wonders unfold every day and the mind boggles at the hidden power of our human bodies to hold secrets that the human eye can never see but the heart and soul feel and intuitively, just know. We cannot see the microscopic world of the blood that flows through our veins, however, with modern technological enhancements and powerful microscopes we can visualise our genetic traits through blood profiles. The lifeworld of our blood cells that once was hidden is now visible! I believe it is ocularcentrism that drives us to seek the visual evidence for ‘proof’ of concept and with the revealing power of technology comes the ‘aha’ moment when we first see (Sinclair et al 2019). The realisation of the gift of precious life that flows from the beginning of time and lasts forever is mesmerising stuff that can set the imagination on fire! The new evidence on ‘fetal microchimeria’(FMc) indicates that at conception, transference of maternal and fetal cells occur and that new life lives in us, regardless of whether or not we abort or have a stillbirth or the child or the adult dies. The definition of motherhood is called into question if we consider this fact. What a thought to consider and it brings us a new lens to look at the role of being a mother and the longevity of human cells. The thought of your child’s cells remaining in your body for the lifespan is now factual not fictional. The facts are simple: cells from your baby (aborted, miscarried or born) remain in your body for a very long time and your cells also remain in your child, resulting in reciprocal transference, known as ‘fetal microchimerism’ (FMc) (Shrivastava et al 2019). This fact supports the intuition that mothers often express when they sense their child is in trouble although they have nothing but a feeling to go on. The shared cellular life identified through FMc provides the scientific basis to prove the life line theory. Furthermore, the often heard statement: ‘a part of me died when my mother died’ can also be scientifically proven …with our understanding of FMc. Fetal microchimerism refers to the bi-directional transfer of cells from the mother to the fetus and from the fetus to the mother and can occur at any time from conception to birth. These cells remain in circulation for the lifespan and have been implicated in both positive and negative autoimmune disease progression (Shrivastava et al 2019). The understanding of FMc is an emerging body of knowledge that is focused on determining the role and function of transferred cells from the fetus to the mother during conception, pregnancy and the puerperium (Berencsi et al 2012). Some studies have reported positive associations such as protection from breast cancer (Gadi 2010) and Florim et al (2015) report positive associations with lupus. However, negative associations have been reported with increased risk of pre-eclampsia and cardiovascular disease (Berencsi et al 2012), yet others report both positive and negative associations (Yeung & Dendrou 2019). There is no doubt that this is an area for future research as the facts are still in the process of being collected and synthesised. Another explosive and controversial application of this important new knowledge for religious believers is with regard to the evidence that can be extrapolated to confirm the very special role and veneration of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Ministers and faith writers have written books (Calloway 2013) and social media postings, blogs and online commentaries about FMc referring to the evidence from research as confirmation of Mary’s virgin birth and her ascension into heaven (Dobkowski 2017). Personal beliefs are to be respected but as midwives we are bound to seek the evidence from the genomics and immunology first and then we must remain sensitive and respectful to the religious beliefs of all the women we serve. We are cognisant of the complexity of human nature and our training prepares us to care for the mind, body and soul, of all those who place their trust in us. Each component of our human nature requires respect, protection and nurturing and FMc is definitely an amazing discovery with soul magnifying potential. Editorial The Royal College of Midwives. Evidence Based Midwifery 18:2 2020 3 I do hope this brief introduction will encourage you to read more about FMc and some of you may be inspired to undertake research in this subject. Key words: fetal microchimerism, evidence-basedmidwifery, motherhood, genetics, ocularcentrism, spirituality and intuition References Berencsi G III, Szomor KN (2012). Fetal and neonatal illnesses caused or influenced by maternal transplacental IgG and/or therapeutic antibodies applied duringPpregnancy. In: Maternal fetal transmission of human viruses and their influence on tumorigenesis. London: Springer: 281-333. Calloway DH (2013). Under the mantle: Marian thoughts from a 21st century priest. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press. Dobkowski JH (2017). ‘The science behind the immaculate conception.’ Corporation You, 8 December. https://corporationyou. [Accessed 26 May 2019]. Gadi VK (2010). Fetal microchimerism in breast from women with and without breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 121(1):241–4. Florim GM, Caldas HC, de Melo JCR, Baptista MASF, Fernandes IMM, Savoldi-Barbosa M, Goldman GH, Abbud-Filho M (2015). Fetal microchimerism in kidney biopsies of lupus nephritis patients may be associated with a beneficial effect. Arthritis Research & Therapy 17(1):101. Shrivastava S, Naik R, Suryawanshi H, Gupta N (2019). Microchimerism: a new concept. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: JOMFP 23(2):311. Sinclair M, McCullough JE, Elliott D, Latos-Bielenska A, Braz P, Cavero-Carbonell C, Jamry-Dziurla A, João Santos A, Páramo- Rodríguez L (2019). Exploring research priorities of parents who have children with Down syndrome, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, congenital heart defects, or spina bifida using ConnectEpeople: a social media coproduction research study. Journal of Medical Internet Research 21(11):e15847. Yeung H-Y, Dendrou CA (2019). Pregnancy immunogenetics and genomics: implications for pregnancy-related complications and autoimmune disease. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 20:73-97. Professor Marlene Sinclair (editor) PhD, MEd, PGDip/ED, BSc, RM. Professor of midwifery research and head of the Centre for Maternal, Fetal and Infant Research at Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Evidence Based Midwifery The
Original languageEnglish
Article number18:2
Pages (from-to)159
Number of pages160
JournalEvidence Based Midwifery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Jun 2020


  • fetal microchimerism,
  • evidence-basedmidwifery,
  • motherhood
  • genetics
  • ocularcentrism
  • spirituality and intuition


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