This picture is floating around the facebooks with no attribution to an original source (not even a source of the image):

During pregnancy, if a mother suffers organ damage, the baby in the womb sends stem cells to repair the damaged organ.

The image says:

During pregnancy, if a mother suffers organ damage, the baby in the womb sends stem cells to repair the damaged organ.

Is this statement correct, and is there a reliable source for this information?

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    Even if it is true, the way the text flows is misleading. It's not like the baby is consciously sending cells to the mother only if there's organ damage. May 24, 2015 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


The following is true, look up:

Dawe GS, Tan XW, Xiao ZC. Cell migration from baby to mother. Cell Adh Migr. 2007;1:19–27. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

The scientific name of this process is called microchimerism, defined by another study as:

the presence of cells originating from another individual therefore genetically distinct from the host cells, is a phenomenon seen during pregnancy whereby fetal stem cells pass bidirectionally from fetus to mother and these microchimeric stem cells persist for many years, influencing the immune status of females in relation to transplant therapy

The conclusion of the study was the following:

Fetal cells exhibit a remarkable ability to migrate across the placenta into the mother and to integrate with diverse maternal tissues and organs, apparently homing in particularly to sites of damage and disease. Much remains to be learned about the basic biology of fetomaternal microchimerism. The cell type or types involved have yet to be conclusively characterized. If various cell types are involved, it will be important to understand the time course of the migration of the various cell types and their persistence in the mother. Studies of the process of cellular adhesion and migration that allow the cells to cross the placental barriers, infiltrate tissues and organs, cross the BBB and migrate to sites of damage will be especially informative. Although long-term persistence of fetal cells may be less frequent in the mouse, the mouse appears to offer a useful model for investigating aspects of fetomaternal traffic during pregnancy.

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    Additional citation, from The Lancet: thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(04)16631-2/… "fetal stem cells in maternal marrow could also act as a long-term reservoir of stem cells and might even explain why women live longer than men and why pregnancy protects against susceptibility to some diseases. "
    – Avery
    May 24, 2015 at 8:14
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    I thought the placenta didn't even pass red blood cells, much less anything that actually has a nucleus. Will have to look this up. May 24, 2015 at 12:22
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    This is very interesting, how do the fetal cells avoid being attacked by the maternal immune system and causing something like hemolytic disease?
    – March Ho
    May 25, 2015 at 5:44
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    Wow. This goes against an article I read that lists the traumas foetus and mother inflict on each other to survive. May 25, 2015 at 6:30
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    What surprises me is that the title of the article refers to a "baby" but the article text never mentions babies. It refers to fetuses. I expected the answer to this question would explain the distinction, but the key reference blurs it.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:10

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