Science Has an Explanation For Why First Pregnancies Can Be So Much Harder
Do you ever look at those moms that have what seems like a million pregnancies and wonder how on earth their body survives going through pregnancy so many times? Or wonder how, against seemingly all odds, everything turns out just fine for them?
Or, if you're a mom who has more than one pregnancy, you may have noticed how your second pregnancy seemed much easier than your first. You may have had less morning sickness, or felt more energized, or had a faster labor and delivery and faster recovery after giving birth. I know that for me, my second pregnancy was way easier than my first. With my first pregnancy, I had almost around-the-clock morning sickness that was so severe I lost 15 pounds in my first trimester (don't worry, I more than made it up later!) and my labor and delivery was honestly pretty miserable.
By my second baby, however, I felt downright fantastic in comparison. I didn't have an ounce of morning sickness, I felt normal all the way through, and I even managed a natural delivery fairly well. (I mean, I had a few moments at the end, but I give myself a break; it's a baby coming out of a confined area, after all …)
I have never really stopped to wonder why my second pregnancy was so much easier than my first, but merely chalked it up to the fact that my body just needed to “get used” to pregnancy. But now, a new study out of Israel may have an explanation for why first-time pregnancies might be so much harder on moms than later pregnancies.
According to the study, a woman's cells during the first pregnancy “learn” from any problems or issues that cropped up during the first pregnancy to try to create a better pregnancy experience the second time. Just like our immune system cells can “learn” how to fight off certain illnesses, our bodies have cells that are responsible for helping an embryo successfully implant–and stay–in the womb. For instance, there are cells responsible for helping a woman's body to avoid complications such as preeclampsia or growth restriction and those cells are even more active in a second pregnancy then a first, because the cells “remember” their job and can do it better the second time around.
The cells that help pave the way for pregnancy and help prevent complications during pregnancy are called “Natural Killer” or NK cells for short, found in the lining of the uterus at the beginning of a pregnancy. They are the same immune system cells that are also responsible for fighting off viruses and tumors, so this is new information that sheds light into the role that the immune system might have in miscarriage or infertility.
What exactly does all of this mean? Well, it means that apparently, your body can “learn” from one pregnancy to try to create a healthier baby for the next pregnancy. I am undecided on whether this phenomenon is completely cool or totally creepy, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
The study also proved what many moms seem to know already: that second pregnancies often really are better for both moms and babies. The babies implant better in second pregnancies, the babies are born at heavier birth weights, and the moms tend to have fewer complications. “It is a known clinical fact that second pregnancies are more efficient than first,” said one of the researchers, Prof. Simcha Yagel, head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hadassah Medical Center.
The research team went on to describe how they hope to use the new findings to help women who are struggling to get pregnant conceive successfully and have healthier pregnancies with fewer complications. If doctors can find a way to help a mom's body act like a first-time pregnancy is actually a second-time pregnancy, she might not only get pregnant easier but stay pregnant and have a healthier pregnancy and baby too. Essentially, science needs to find a way to “hack” a first-time pregnancy. We definitely have a lot to learn about how pregnancy works, but this is one step towards helping women who struggle with infertility to get the families they are dreaming of too.