Singer and TV personality Myleene Klass has revealed in the past few years how she experienced four miscarriages before having her rainbow baby Apollo two years ago.
Recently, while on Heart’s Dirty Mother Pukka podcast with host Anna Whitehouse, the 41-year-old shared what gave her peace through grief.
Myleene disclosed how doctors explained foetal microchimerism to her. This is the phenomenon whereby foetal cells can escape from the uterus and spread through the mother’s body.
The cells can drift into the heart and grow as cardiac cells, meaning they remain a part of their parent.
‘I’ll tell you something that’s quite magical,’ she told Anna. ‘Your body holds the DNA [of the baby].
‘So when you become pregnant, there are cells in your body, that’s how you know if you’re carrying a boy or a girl now because they do those newfangled tests. And your baby almost helps you when you fall pregnant.
‘It sends out all these little messages and helps with the organs, helps tweak whatever needs to be strengthened and that DNA is left behind. So if you’ve carried a boy, it’s in your DNA.
‘They never leave you.’
The poignant story left host Anna in tears, who said it was one of the most beautiful things she’s heard.
So what is microchimerism?
According to the National Institute of Health, microchimerism is defined as the presence of two genetically distinct and separately derived populations of cells, one population being at a low concentration, in the same individual or an organ.
What that means is microchimerism is the harbouring of a small numbers of cells (or DNA) that originated in a genetically different individual – so cells that migrate from the baby to the mother.
And depending on where they go to or form, they can last in the mother’s body for decades. One study found this to be as long as 27 years postpartum.
But these cells can also settle for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle examined the brains of 59 older women who had died, and found Y chromosomes in 63% of them. Many of the studies examined mothers who had sons, as a Y chromosome is easier to distinguish from the mother’s cells.
In 2015, scientists at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands also looked at foetal microchimerism and found that people who get pregnant always acquire these foetal cells.
The cells are present each time they get pregnant and have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy.
And it’s not just in the case of a full-term pregnancy that these cells can remain. Foetal cells that have left the uterus and entered the host’s bloodstream can grow into many kinds of tissues.
So while the mother’s immune system will typically removes unchanged foetal cells from the blood after a pregnancy has ended, the ones that have already been integrated into the parent’s body can still remain.
As Myleene says, then, they’re still a part of you.
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