Weakened Immunity - A Myth? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 06:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Weakened Immunity - A Myth?

I know the common prevailing theory is that when you are pregnant, your body's immune system is weakened so as not to attack the baby, but my guess is that the body is much more complicated than to be all or nothing with immunity.

Recently my husband got sick from some co-workers and it hasn't touched me at all. It's been over 2 weeks, so I should be showing symptoms by now.

My guess is that the body's immune system is much more complex and sophisticated than we give it credit for. It is possible that there is a part of the body that for whatever reason does not attack the baby while at the same time preserving a barrier of defenses to outside invaders.

My other guess is that the reason it seems that pregnant women are more susceptible to illness is because pregnancy is one of the most stressful events in a woman's lifetime, and stress causes a large break in the defenses, as well as taking longer to get over the illnesses that do breach the walls.

Three kids and one on the way.
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#2 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 07:08 AM
 
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I agree that our body is a lot more complex than what we can comprehend. I don't have any personal experience yet. I do know of a woman who had MS and she did not have any "attacks" while she was pregnant. I've also heard that for some women their asthma improves while pregnant (granted for some it gets worse). I'm glad that you are immune so far from being sick.

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#3 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 07:13 AM
 
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So far, I've fought off one cold and am working on fighting off a second one (I can feel that coming down with a cold feeling, and sinuses draining down my throat, but my nose hasn't gotten stuffy yet). In both cases, I had kids with colds, and it was my younger kids who are all over me, and they both have fingers or thumb in their mouths all the time, so it's really hard not to catch something from them. I do take elderberry and astragalus at the first sign of impending sickness, and that seems to help. But yeah, I don't think I get sick any easier than I do when not pregnant.
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#4 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 07:25 AM
 
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I have never heard that it was so your body wouldn't attack the baby.... That's just dumb. God is way smarter than that. I think it's just because we are tired and our body's resources are being out to use in other ways and can't 100 percent function on every playing field. I agree, stress, sleeplessness, hard working ... It all contributes to increased illness in pregnant ladies.
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#5 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 08:06 AM
 
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I'm not sure, I do know that my white blood cells have increased since I've been pregnant which would indicate a stronger immunity to me...

Kyle and Jordan - Married June 22nd, 2013

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#6 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 09:59 AM
 
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wellll, it's always more complicated than simplistic explanations. It is true that the baby does need to be protected from mom's immune system so that it is not rejected as a foreign body. This is the reason why women exposed to Rh from one pregnancy need to take extra precautions and Rhogam in subsequent pregnancies. The first pregnancy causes the production of antibodies to Rh (mom is negative and dad is positive). If it's not dealt with in subsequent pregnancies it can have devastating effects.

For some people the signalling pathway between mom and baby doesn't work properly for whatever reason leading to repeat miscarriages.

So yes, our immune systems are dampened during pregnancy. Not getting ill from your partner or children may just mean that you've been previously exposed to that virus or a very similar one and have already developed antibodies. Or you were just lucky. Not getting flare ups of MS makes sense as MS is an autoimmune disorder. Dampening the immune system leads to reduced MS symptoms (my aunts who have MS - I have 3 who do - all say that they almost never get sick as their immune systems are always on overdrive).

Of course every individual will react differently, but on average immune systems are a little weaker during pregnancy. Here's hoping we all make it through the upcoming indoors season more or less intact!

Breastfeeding, cosleeping, homebirthing scientist mama to DD1 07/08, DD2 06/10 and a third on the way 02/15!

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#7 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 04:25 PM
 
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Yeah, it is way, way more complicated than pregnancy simply depressing the immune system. I had an autoimmune disease before getting pregnant with DS, and experienced a full remission of symptoms almost as soon as I got pregnant. There are definitely mechanisms going on that prevent the immune system from attacking the baby as a foreign body, BUT I've also heard more anecdotally that pregnant women are less likely to get sick.

My assumption is that pregnancy affects different parts of your immune system in different ways. You have cells whose only job is to distinguish self vs non-self and to flag the non-self, then other cells that actually destroy the invaders. My guess is that one arm might be dampened while another is ramped up. Our body's know what they're doing.



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#8 of 10 Old 08-13-2014, 08:02 PM
 
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Out of my three pregnancies, this is the first one I ever had a cold with. The duration of my cold was less than half of my kids'. I do think autoimmune disorders to viral/bacterial illness is apples to oranges. It would make sense that the pregnant body would respond in kind to each. I am rH negative, and so thankful for Rhogam. I'm also thankful they test my antibody levels to ensure my baby's safety.

Perhaps one component is behavioral. Does pregnancy make one woman more vigilant about protective behaviors, like extra hand-washing, or avoiding crowds (not just because of fear of illness, but a personal preference), while making another so tired that their body is using their energy to maintain their day-to-day activity and has none left for fighting illness. I know that seems weird-o, but my daughter has a noticable decrease in motor skills during an acute illness- her neurologist said her brain is so busy focusing in one area, her motor skills decompensate. They are restored when she is healthy again. Maybe the same is true for all people- your body has to divert energy from one area to focus on another...
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#9 of 10 Old 08-14-2014, 06:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DuchessTergie View Post
Perhaps one component is behavioral. Does pregnancy make one woman more vigilant about protective behaviors, like extra hand-washing, or avoiding crowds (not just because of fear of illness, but a personal preference), while making another so tired that their body is using their energy to maintain their day-to-day activity and has none left for fighting illness. I know that seems weird-o, but my daughter has a noticable decrease in motor skills during an acute illness- her neurologist said her brain is so busy focusing in one area, her motor skills decompensate. They are restored when she is healthy again. Maybe the same is true for all people- your body has to divert energy from one area to focus on another...
I would agree with that. There is probably a very good reason for morning sickness, for the woman to avoid certain foods during the most critical time of the pregnancy.

There is a neurological disorder called PANDAS in children that is brought on by strep. The body definitely diverts energy to deal with what it considers critical.

Three kids and one on the way.
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#10 of 10 Old 08-15-2014, 05:26 PM
 
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Well, I spoke to soon about the cold in my house. I came down with it the night before last. I fought it off pretty quickly and am feeling better today, despite having lost a LOT of sleep that first night (my snoring from the cold was keeping DH up, so I went to the couch in the den where the dogs are... my brain turned on and wouldn't go off for a while, then as I was finally starting to doze off, a dog started whining to go out, and apparently he *really* needed to go... glad that wasn't on the den floor! Then I started to fall alseep again and he had to go out again. I probably got a total of 45 minutes sleep after 2:30am)

Mama to Tornado Boy (6/04), The Brute (11/06), and Mischief (05/09)... expecting in February '15
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