Monday, May 16, 2005

Smoke Gets in Your Eggs

Haven't you always loved that old jazz standard, you know, the one with the lyrics by Bryan Ferry? The words go something like this:

They ask me how I knew
What I want to do
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
They said someday you´ll find
Maternal instinct's blind
When your heart´s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
And kept up my maternal plans
Yet today my hope has flown away
I am without my babes
Now soothing friends decry
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When Granny smokes her cigs
Smoke gets in your eggs

Wait. What? You say that's not the way you remember the lyrics? Well, you clearly have not been reading the Wall Street Journal lately. (And more power to you; their editorial page gives me hives.) But if you had accidentaly come across a copy over the weekend and just happened to turn to the May 13, 2005 "Science Journal" section, you'd have stumbled on the article:

"Grandma's Behavior While Pregnant Affects Her Grandkids' Health"
— by Sharon Begley.

Read my excerpt and weep:

"Scientists are discovering that nature...can visit the sins of the grandparents on the children... Transgenerational effects are the latest focus of a growing field called fetal programming, or the fetal origins of adult diseases. It examines how conditions in the womb shape physiology in a way that makes people more vulnerable decades later to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune problems, and other illnesses...Last month scientists reported that a child whose grandmother smoked while pregnant with the child's mother may have twice the risk of developing asthma as a child whose grandmother didn't flood her fetus with carcinogens. Remarkably, the risk from grandma's smoking was as great or greater than from mom's...The harmful effects of tobacco, it seems, can reach down two generations even when the intervening generation—mom—has no reason to suspect her child may be at risk...What causes the grandma effect? One suspect is DNA in the fetus's eggs (all the eggs a girl will ever have are made before birth). Chemicals in smoke might change the on-off pattern of genes in eggs, including genes of the immune system, affecting children who develop from those eggs. Men whose mother's smoked don't seem to pass on such abnormalities, probably because sperm are made after birth...When immune compromised girls become pregnant, they have less chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Score another one for the grandma effect."

Are you angry yet? Are you crying? I am. Because my grandmother (until her premature smoking-related death) smoked a good two packs a day every day of her life and all through her pregnancy with my mother, even as my then-embryonic mother was busy in utero making the egg that would one day make me. And I, despite being in overall good health and testing negative for every damn disorder that a hematologist, four reproductive endocrinologists, and a rheumatologist can think of to test me for, don't seem to have much "chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby." Indeed, they tell me my best hope is probably to act as if I DO have an immune disorder, one they simply cannot find or diagnose, and go on anti-coagulation therapy in my next pregnancy.

One of the "luxuries" of suffering from UNEXPLAINED Recurrent Miscarriages is that you get to grasp at any and every possible explanation that comes your way, no matter how hazy the details. So I'm singing through angry tears this morning, "Smoke gets in your eggs."