Fetal cells for the win!

I know there isn’t really a way to prepare for disastrous news, and that regardless of how much I try to brace myself for not finding a heartbeat during Monday’s ultrasound, it will still suck major balls (if that is, in fact, the case). Nonetheless, I’m trying to think of a few things that may help me cope. There’s the obvious: Wine, hot tubs and saunas, a vacation, more wine, no more chalky Endometrin stuffed up my lady bits, etc. I’m also reminding myself of all the millions of women in this world who’ve suffered miscarriages, recovered and gone on to have healthy babies while not totally losing their sanity in the process.

On top of all this, I’m re-listening to a Radiolab podcast I discovered a little while ago. In very basic scientific terms, the hosts talk about studies on fetal cells. Skipping to the good part: They’ve discovered that women who become pregnant, whether they end up delivering a healthy child or miscarrying, retain cells leftover from the embryo/fetus in their bodies — forever. AND, these fetal cells might just help the women fight diseases like cancer later in life. What’s crazy is that, even if you’re only pregnant for a very short period of time, those cells will continue to kick around in your system until you die.

I find this incredibly reassuring — at this point, even if I lose this pregnancy, a tiny bit of Mr. Embryo will forever be staying with me. It’s rather poetic, don’t you think?

P.S. It’s kind of fascinating that the comment thread on Radiolab’s page is full of men bashing this episode for bringing emotion into the scientific process and women praising the hosts for giving them a new perspective on their previous miscarriages. Says one woman: “Discovering I still carry the fetal cells of the precious little boy I lost earlier this year — I can’t begin to express how incredibly happy it made me to hear this. Good or bad, I’m just so glad to know I still have something of him left behind!” And another: “I just want to tell you how profoundly this piece moved me. I was pregnant once, in my 20’s, but lost the pregnancy in the 6th month. I never managed to have another child. Knowing that some of the cells of that baby are still alive in me? That’s the most comforting thing I’ve ever heard.”

Your thoughts?

9 thoughts on “Fetal cells for the win!

  1. I think that’s amazing and absolutely wonderful. Although I’ve never lost a pregnancy (that I know of), I still find it comforting to know that I’m always going to carry a bit of my baby with me, even once he’s out in the world.

    I have LOTS of thoughts about the the issue of keeping emotion out of science. Basically, I don’t think it’s always a good thing. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but I personally see a lot of benefit in allowing our emotional human nature to play a role in science. I think conservation, for example, benefits greatly from carrying an emotional element. What incentive is there for us to want to preserve something if it has no meaning in our lives? Take Jane Goodall’s work on chimps, for instance. The scientific community was horrified when she began her studies and gave names rather than numbers to the chimps she was observing. They argued it was wrong for her to humanize her subjects. Perhaps she did anthropomorphize them (to a certaine extent), but the outcome is that these chimps became more than mere animals to the people who read about them. They became beings who had thoughts and feelings…and value. The end result is that people want to protect and preserve these creatures because they come to care about them. And I’d argue that emotions shouldn’t be kept out of medicine, either. Medicine is all about dealing with people, and you can’t treat people like machines. It just does not work to try to separate out our emotions.

    Anyway…blah, blah, blah. Very cool. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. I felt a similar relief when I heard this episode; it really was the most comforting part of my whole experience. The fact that the fetal cells linger forever in your body aligns perfectly with the fact that thoughts of the fetus linger forever in your brain.

  3. You are amazing! I love your outlook. That’s a very cool study actually! I still feel sooooo hopeful that your embryo is in there growing and thriving. BUT no matter what happens, we are all here for you rooting you on. You will get your miracle, and hopefully it’s time now! Praying, send good juju, blowing babydust at you, and everything else I can muster up. :) Hugs xoxo
    And thank you for being such a kind supporter on my blog, even when you’re going through a tough time. You’re a cool chick :)

  4. I’ve read about these studies before. Really cool stuff, isn’t it? As far as the mixing of emotion and science, is say that it’s utterly ridiculous to suggest that scientific study had no place for emotion. As a scientist (well, scientist in training), I think that the very motivator for scientific study IS emotion. I study the brain because of the excitement I feel when I think about how it works. I choose a particular topic because it sparks my interest, and it sparks my interest because I have an emotional reaction to it. This is similar to what Jenny said about conservationists. And would we REALLY have modern medicine if there wasn’t an emotional response to sickness and death of ourselves and our loved ones? Would there be scientific study related to infertility if there was no emotional response to not being able to reproduce? I doubt it. Emotion leads to curiosity and curiosity drives science. Can emotion mess things up if you allow it to cloud your judgment while you actually perform science? Sure. But there are checks and balances in place for that.

  5. Wow that is so amazing to think about. I had no idea that the cells would stay even past your next period, let alone forever!!

    I am sending you lots of good vibes for your ultrasound. I have a good feeling for you :)

  6. As a former hardcore scientist, I love the responses from these commenters! And thank you for posting about this in the first place. Excellent, excellent stuff! I couldn’t be happier to know this! You and this whole community continue to inspire me.
    p.s. Soooo happy to hear there are other lady scientists out there as part of this community. It’s for our knowledge and understanding of issues like this (and ALL issues) that I believe we really need more women represented in scientific communities. Women who feel free to act like themselves and not feel like they have to try to act like men simply because society hasn’t figured out how to accept our unique perspectives yet!
    p.p.s. You are doing a fabulous job getting through this difficult passage of time. Sending good thoughts your way for Monday – everything’s going to be fine!!

  7. Hmmm. I loved reading the responses from your readers about science and emotion. I think that taking the emotion out is just a simple way to say “Don’t be biased.” Which, is a no duh statement. But I think what your readers are touching on is that we need emotion/drive/motivation to even learn and study in the first place. Otherwise we’d never move forward. I think the reason we have peer review is to keep our emotions in check just a bit ;)

    Anyhow i am also sending good thoughts your way. Keep us posted.

  8. This is really interesting info. I think it’s a nice way for people to think of their lost babies being still with them, as sad as it is. Just wanted to stop by and say good luck tomorrow, I’ll be thinking of you and sending good vibes!

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