Pregnancy and the Immune System

Pregnancy And Immune

Pregnancy and fitness with pandemic restrictions get complicated. During this pandemic, pregnant women are even more isolated than the general population. Our general understanding is to protect the “fragile” immune system of pregnant women. But is pregnancy and the immune system working in the way we are led to believe?

How much do we understand about pregnancy and the immune system?

Turns out we knew little until very recently. It used to be thought that our immune system was compromised or suppressed during pregnancy to keep the body from rejecting the fetus. The idea was the suppressed immune system made the mother more susceptible to infection: viral or bacterial.

However, a study conducted by Dr. Brice Gaudilliere – an assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University in California – and colleagues, found the immune system is much more complicated during pregnancy; it is in a constant state of flux throughout pregnancy.

The Immune System During Pregnancy

At the time of implantation the immune cell response increases, which is what was thought to be the body’s response to rejecting the fetus. This response does the opposite as it is required for successful implantation. This process is referred to as pro-inflammatory.

The pro-inflammatory process lasts for the first 12-weeks followed by the anti-inflammatory period which lasts until the 3rd trimester where the immune system switches back to pro-inflammatory to help the body get ready for labor and delivery.

The anti-inflammatory period is when there is an increase of regulatory T cells (Tregs) to protect antigens that originate from the father. In normal circumstances, these antigens would cause the mother’s immune system to recognize them as foreign and attack the cells. However, they are needed for the developing fetus therefore the immune system produces more Tregs to protect the antigens from being attacked.

Is The Immune System Suppressed?

The short answer is, no. The immune system of your pregnant clients is more active than under normal circumstances which is what makes them more susceptible to illness. The immune system, it is being discovered, is heavily involved in the mother’s body creating a new life.

There are many factors that influence how the immune system reacts during pregnancy. One of these influences is the microbiome. The short story is, it is hypothesized that viruses deactivate the immune signaling process crucial for the interaction of the immune system and bacteria. It is this deactivation that is believed to leave the mother at risk of bacterial infection in addition to whatever virus is in her system.


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A study in mice on this theory showed that pregnant mice exposed to a common bacterial infection on top of a viral infection lead to preterm birth.  Scientists believe the preterm birth is caused by the mother’s highly active immune response to the infection.

In short, the immune system is not suppressed. The immune system is highly active during pregnancy which is not a normal state for the immune system.

This is new information about the immune system and pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women may not be made aware of how their immune systems are working. They may have general fear centered around getting sick. That is understandable, right now.

They may believe that their immune system is suppressed due to their pregnancy. This belief may be internalized into feelings or thoughts that their body is weaker than normal. In actuality, their bodies are extremely powerful during this time.

The Power of The Mind

Fear resonates throughout the body at the tune of a negative frequency. If you ever want to dive into the concepts of vibrational frequencies in the body, I strongly recommend looking into the pioneer stem cell biologist Bruce H. Lipton, PhD. He was the first to prove that “thoughts are things” and that feelings have more healing power than medicine.

You could also listen to a podcast episode, “Quantum Love and Healing with Dr. Bruce Lipton”, on the Orgasmic Enlightenment podcast with Kim Anami. In this particular podcast, Dr. Lipton touches on the immune system and it’s relation to vibrational frequencies.

The New “Doctor/Patient” Relationship

When we work with our pregnant clients, it’s important to empower them in this time of fear. They are more isolated than the general public. They may have a great understanding of what is going on with their bodies as they build this new life, or they may not. The lack of information at their disposal or that which is unknown drives this fear.

Whether you are meeting with your pregnant clients in person or virtually, they are coming to you not only for fitness but emotional support. The only time women see their physicians on a regular basis is when they are pregnant or have a health issue. Studies show that Doctors only get 13 minutes to spend with each of their patients. That is no time to dive into what all is going on within their patients’ lives.

Fitness, lifestyle, & health coaches, and others the wellness feel can bridge this gap in health-care. Women have more time with their coaches to develop a better “patient/doctor” relationship. The difference is the relationship is “client/coach”. You probably know more about their lives than their doctors ever could. You become the person they are more comfortable opening up to about things they are feeling or going through. Especially if you are a woman health professional with kids of her own.

Remember to empower your pregnant clients to further help address their needs in their health and fitness. Knowledge and support are powerful tools.


Learn more in our Functional Training Specialist as a part of our Continuing Education Course Series.
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Tara Haislip is a certified AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant and founder of TENHealth & Wellness. She has an accomplished 18-year dance career including a BA in Modern Dance Performance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After suffering an injury early in her career, Tara's healing process included nutrition and holistic fitness practices. It was then she discovered her passion for wanting to help others live more healthful lives. In 2017, she created TENHealth & Wellness, an online nutrition and wellness service, teaching clients to manage health through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
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