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Listen, we all know what the obvious joke is here, so
April 25, 2014 7:38 AM   Subscribe

A pregnant woman's risk of experiencing pre-eclampsia or miscarriage is significantly reduced by long-term exposure to her partner's semen. Especially if she swallows it.

According to this theory, the mother's immune system may attack anything it sees as foreign- which includes half of the fetus's genetic material. But prolonged exposure to the father's semen, even as early as several years prior to conception, can acclimate the mother's immune system to the father's genes.
posted by showbiz_liz (61 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are plenty of slightly less obvious jokes here about peer review of the work.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:41 AM on April 25 [17 favorites]


Subscribed.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


wouldn't it be less than half of the fetus's genetic material, because the mother and father undoubtedly have the same genes for some functions? anyway...

my dating pool is women in their 50s, and i will show them this material at the appropriate juncture.
posted by bruce at 7:44 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


And the researchers were probably all men, too.
posted by goethean at 7:45 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Only half the test subjects though.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:49 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


Interesting that they're focusing on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in sperm. The G-class soluble HLA has been examined somewhat extensively for its possible role in immunological implantation rejection in IVF procedures and non-ART pregnancies. We've known for about 10 years that HLA-G production by an embryo/blastocyst and subsequent production in placental trophoblast cells can be a reliable indicator of immune suppression at the maternal-fetal interface, resulting in successful implantation and a complete pregnancy, vs., a failed implantation or miscarriage after implantation.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]


NB I believe this would also work if the mother simply devoured the father outright shortly after mating but sadly my research project will never pass an IRB.
posted by elizardbits at 7:54 AM on April 25 [261 favorites]


To clarify what I wrote above:

HLA-G (or actually soluble HLA-G: sHLA-G) is not only produced by sperm. It's secreted by embryos. And then once the embryo is implanted in the uterine wall, it's produced by the forming (and fully formed) placenta. The HLA (leukocyte antigen) helps prevent the maternal immune system from rejecting an embryo as a foreign body, causing a miscarriage. It actually plays a key role in preventing miscarriages. The embryo is an amalgam of both the mother and father's dna. So it's not going to be registered by the mother's immune system as "self."

All embryos secrete different levels of sHLA-G. If too low, then it won't be effective at suppressing the maternal immune response. If too high, they may also trigger a miscarriage. So, for reproductive success, the embryo has to secrete the right amount. And then the placenta has to continue secreting the right amount throughout the pregnancy.

Swallowing a father's HLA-G to build up immunity and prevent rejection. Fascinating solution.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on April 25 [14 favorites]


NB I believe this would also work if the mother simply devoured the father outright shortly after mating but sadly my research project will never pass an IRB.

There is a job for you in the R&D department at Praying Mantis Industries LLC.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:00 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Don't need to wash that beaker out after all.
posted by Kabanos at 8:05 AM on April 25 [19 favorites]


Praying Mantis Industries LLC

Weren't they just bought by Veridian Dynamics?
posted by fight or flight at 8:06 AM on April 25 [16 favorites]


zarq, thank you so much for bringing the science to this thread. I am a mere humanities-type who stumbled across this article while idly reading the Wikipedia page about oral sex.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:08 AM on April 25 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: idly reading the Wikipedia page about oral sex.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:15 AM on April 25 [32 favorites]


Oh, you're very welcome. Joking aside, it's a really interesting topic and one that could conceivably impact a lot of people who read this post. Miscarriages are incredibly common (1 in every 4 pregnancies) and pre-eclampsia (6-8% of all pregnancies and one of the leading causes of maternal and fetal death) is very dangerous. Anything that can reduce the possibility of either one happening is great.

I AM making a mental note never to mate with elizardbits, though. :D
posted by zarq at 8:15 AM on April 25 [17 favorites]


And then once the embryo is implanted in the uterine wall, it's produced by the forming (and fully formed) placenta.

So if a woman is game for placentophagy, might it then be worth saving some placenta for an HLA-G boost ahead of a future planned pregnancy? Or would genetic difference between the two embryos complicate things?
posted by Kabanos at 8:19 AM on April 25


I am a mere humanities-type who stumbled across this article while idly reading the Wikipedia page about oral sex.

Holy shit you are my BIGGEST HERO.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:21 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]


NB I believe this would also work if the mother simply devoured the father outright shortly after mating but sadly my research project will never pass an IRB.

yea, man. it's all politics.
posted by echocollate at 8:24 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


After seeing that episode of Downton Abbey while being pregnant myself, my husband and I were very shaken up about that possibility. While reading wikipedia about pre-eclampsia, we ran across that exact same section in the OP.

*ahem*

Our little spawn will be 9 months old in a couple days - no eclampsia for us!
posted by jillithd at 8:26 AM on April 25 [13 favorites]


In couples that have difficulty with eclampsia, could the father's HLA-G be processed into an injectable or tablet format ?
posted by edgeways at 8:31 AM on April 25


Kabanos: " So if a woman is game for placentophagy, might it then be worth saving some placenta for an HLA-G boost ahead of a future planned pregnancy? Or would genetic difference between the two embryos complicate things?"

This is a GREAT question. I have no idea. :)

You wouldn't need to save the entire placenta. Just some extravillous cytotrophoblast cells (from the tips of the chorionic villi) -- the outermost placental layer, where they're secreted. Right now, some fertility clinics can and do test embryos for the presence/quantity of sHLA-G to determine if they are viable for implantation. But I don't know how reliable that diagnostic test might be, or if it has been adopted widely.

Studies have already shown that transplanted organs (like a heart) which secrete HLA-G have a better acceptance rate than those that don't.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on April 25


Praying Mantis Industries LLC

Weren't they just bought by Veridian Dynamics?


No, they were a spin-off from Aperture Science after the original research was terminated.
posted by plinth at 8:35 AM on April 25


In couples that have difficulty with eclampsia, could the father's HLA-G be processed into an injectable or tablet format ?

It's already available in an injectable and easily swallowable* convenient form.

* For values of "easily swallowable" that include sticky, bitter, and slimy.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:35 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Just put it in a smoothie with like some banana and ice

Maybe add some egg whites for an extra hit of protein
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:39 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


What with the whole "poop implants" thing, and now this, I'm wondering what other marvelous medical benefits might be derived from various weird human excretia. Next up: toenail gunk cures herpes! That weird crust that comes from piercings is an anti-aging serum!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:44 AM on April 25 [12 favorites]


wait what's the obvious joke
posted by chococat at 8:58 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


I dislike being an exception to this rule/concept. I was with my husband for four years before I got pregnant, and we never used barrier methods (I always had an IUD), and all that etc etc. I still got epic pre-eclampsia at 40 weeks, and it was morphing into HELLP while I was going through induced labor. (HELLP is kind of a weird beast, and doctors disagree on whether it's a form of pre-eclampsia or not. But my OBs subscribed to the theory that it is.) My paternal grandmother had massive pre-eclampsia issues, too.

An OB told me about this exposure-to-father's-semen stuff while I was laboring, but I'd already heard of it early in my pregnancy. And I'd been relieved when I read about it, because it seemed like we were obviously in the clear. Yes sir, we'd dodged that bullet nicely. Ha ha, nope. Other OBs commented on the dad's-semen connection like, "yeah, that is very interesting, but we honestly still don't entirely know what makes pre-eclampsia happen." Then throughout our stay, OBs and nurses kept popping in my room to say things like, "I'm sorry this happened to you. Boy, were you ever sick!" Hey, thanks, guys.

I gave birth at Duke University Hospital, FWIW. Thanks for saving our lives (during a snowstorm on my birthday), Duke peoples.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:00 AM on April 25 [16 favorites]


[I know the temptation is great but let's maybe pretend like we have the willpower not to go in a heh-heh-good-luck-getting-her-to-swallow direction with this.]
posted by cortex at 9:11 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Coatlicue- in the Wikipedia link, it mentions that some "dangerous males" actually lack whatever sperm chemicals make this process effective.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:13 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


How did I miss that? I've read that damned Wiki article like 90000 times, and still never caught that. Now I can tease my husband about being So Dangerous. I could have been doing that for months now! Holy shit, wait until he gets home.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:16 AM on April 25 [21 favorites]


I also recall seeing evidence of efficacy in reducing nausea/"morning sickness".

Though, in that case I suspect selection bias may be distorting the results.
posted by roystgnr at 9:17 AM on April 25


So if too little HLG-A can cause pre-ecplampsyia and too MUCH of it can do the same, aren't you playing with fire by increasing the amount of exposure to it via the father's sperm? How do you predict when you''ve passed 'just enough'? Seems a dangerous game to play.
posted by spicynuts at 9:20 AM on April 25


Seems a dangerous game to play.

And not playing it would be just as dangerous, no?

And less fun.
posted by entropone at 9:24 AM on April 25


NB I believe this would also work if the mother simply devoured the father outright shortly after mating but sadly my research project will never pass an IRB.

That's not even good science. We already know the effect takes some lead time: storing the sperm and consuming the father in advance of impregnation would yield much more useful results.

Alternatively you could avoid killing the father entirely by simply harvesting various extremities for consumption as required. The lack of subject fatality would make it much more likely to get past the IRB, IMHO.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:35 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Alternatively you could avoid killing the father entirely by simply harvesting various extremities for consumption as required. The lack of subject fatality would make it much more likely to get past the IRB, IMHO.

Oh, have you been watching Hannibal too?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:37 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


spicynuts: "aren't you playing with fire"

Eponysterical...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:37 AM on April 25 [6 favorites]


Huh. One could concoct a plausible evo-devo story about this: that high miscarriage rates which are reduced by varied sexual interactions over a period of many months serve to help ensure that an individual who successfully carries a pregnancy to term will have a partner around to help care for the offspring. At least it provides further ammunition against those sociolobiological claims that the male's reproductive interest is only in number and variety of partners (which often devolve into even nastier just-so stories about rape being natural).
posted by DrMew at 9:43 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


spicynuts: "So if too little HLG-A can cause pre-ecplampsyia and too MUCH of it can do the same, aren't you playing with fire by increasing the amount of exposure to it via the father's sperm? How do you predict when you''ve passed 'just enough'? Seems a dangerous game to play."

I'm not a reproductive endocrinologist, so please read what follows with that in mind...

I think swallowing sHLA-G might only slightly increase the tolerance?

HLA-G works by inhibiting what are called "Natural Killer" or NK cells in the host body. NK's are cytotoxic lymphocytes. Immune-response leukocytes that target foreign cells. A high level of HLA-G is required for this to work. The type of NK cell that is present in the uterus is called a uterine NK cell, or uNK. They're a bit different from NKs located in other areas of the body.

If too few maternal uNK cells are inhibited, then may attack the embryo or placenta. If too many uNK cells are inhibited then the result will be reproductive failure. They're actually a key component of successful pregnancies. So there has to be a happy medium.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on April 25


Wasn't HLA-G an industrial band about 20 years ago?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:59 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering what other marvelous medical benefits might be derived from various weird human excretia. Next up: toenail gunk cures herpes!

I'd be really surprised if picking your nose and eating it didn't provide some sort of health benefit. Other than the sheer deliciousness that is.
posted by srboisvert at 10:08 AM on April 25 [13 favorites]


Huh, it seems like this unfortunately suggests that the Todd Akin's of the world ("If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down") are only 99% wrong.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 10:09 AM on April 25


Wasn't HLA-G an industrial band about 20 years ago?

Are you thinking of punk band BLACK HLA-G?
posted by Kabanos at 10:13 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


One could concoct a plausible evo-devo story about this: that high miscarriage rates which are reduced by varied sexual interactions over a period of many months serve to help ensure that an individual who successfully carries a pregnancy to term will have a partner around to help care for the offspring

Huh. I missed that implication. It also restricts the long term effects of the whole fertility/cheating thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:26 AM on April 25


One could concoct a plausible evo-devo story about this

Concocted is the right word for the groundless story you subsequently tell.

At least it provides further ammunition against...

Please don't fight pseudoscience with pseudoscience.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:02 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Please don't fight pseudoscience with pseudoscience.

I do think it's useful to combat just-so stories by saying "well, it ISN'T just so. It's actually a hell of a lot more complicated."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:04 AM on April 25


I do think it's useful to combat just-so stories by saying "well, it ISN'T just so. It's actually a hell of a lot more complicated."

Agreed. But the way to do that isn't to make up oversimplified stories of our own.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:08 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


The reason you are saying that is that it was evolutionarily advantageous to tell people not to make up just so stories.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:32 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Onion article idea: Tennessee and Mississippi move to make it illegal for pregnant women to refuse their partners oral sex.
posted by Corinth at 11:55 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


I find their conclusions a little hard to swallow
posted by Renoroc at 12:05 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Great. You know where this going, right? Pumps for collection and more mysterious jars in the lunch fridge at work. After the last mystery milk incident, I hope everyone learns to label properly.
posted by bonehead at 12:06 PM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Huh. I was just listening to Momus' Coming in a Girl's Mouth... (SLYT, lyrics NSFW, clearly).
posted by symbioid at 1:07 PM on April 25


Unless you work in the sex industry, in which case, listen ahoy!
posted by symbioid at 1:07 PM on April 25


bonehead: "Great. You know where this going, right? Pumps for collection and more mysterious jars in the lunch fridge at work. After the last mystery milk incident, I hope everyone learns to label properly."

Eponyjaculate.
posted by symbioid at 1:28 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Please don't fight pseudoscience with pseudoscience.

I'm not sure that showing that a pseudoscientific train of thought contradicts itself qualifies.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:40 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Pumps for collection

More automation putting the small handjobber out of work, huh?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:42 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


"...significantly reduced by long-term exposure to her partner's semen.

Did they have some of the women ingest semen that *didn't* belong to their partner, just to be sure?

Similarly, did they whip up a special batch of artificial semen as a control? If so, what recipe did they follow?
posted by markkraft at 4:11 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Was this expiriment animal tested before human trials?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:24 PM on April 25


>>Pumps for collection
>More automation putting the small handjobber out of work, huh?


Don't worry. In this particular area rule #34 creates jobs far faster than they could ever be destroyed.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:29 PM on April 25


/moves to Florida or Mississippi
posted by goethean at 4:42 PM on April 25


Coatlicue, I really hope you named your kid Huitzi.

During and after my wife's pregnancy so many things made so little sense that I started reading on human pregnancy, which led to placentas, sperm and eggs, sex chromosomes, gender, and all the way down to sexual reproduction and its origin.

As a very entertaining and informative starting point, I recommend a book titled Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex.

In conclusion, sexual reproduction is a land of contrast. Contrast between terror and horror.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:58 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Doroteo Arango II: "In conclusion, sexual reproduction is a land of contrast. Contrast between terror and horror."

And thats why any thread about peculiarities of human reproduction is doomed to turn into a joke thread. ... even when we all know the obvious jokes ... about pumps for collections or small handjobbers.

Oversimplified evolutionary theory: laughter is a way to deal with life's horrors.

/I and, accept it, you, as well, did laugh at those obvious jokes.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 2:14 PM on April 26


Is the obvious joke about grilled cheese sandwiches?
posted by Gordafarin at 9:45 AM on April 27


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