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If the number of coughs and colds you've endured rivals the number of toys you've tripped over since becoming a parent, you're most certainly not alone.

According to recent research, entering the weird and wonderful world of motherhood actually has a profound effect on an individual's immune system - more than even a flu or stomach bug might.

The study, which was carried out over the course of three years and involved the participation of almost 700 people between the ages of two and 86, sought to establish what causes the variations which occur between people's immune systems, and ultimately concluded that parenting a child can significantly alter one's immune system.

Monitoring the participants, researchers studied the effect varying factors such as age, gender, depression, anxiety and obesity can have on an individual and established that after a challenge, the immune system generally reverts to its previous state.

However, while the aforementioned issues didn't tend to have a longlasting effect, researchers did determine that co-parenting has the most significant effect on the individual's immune system.

According to the study, individuals who lived together and shared a child experienced a 50% reduction in the variation between their two immune systems in comparison to diversity identified in the wider population.

Commenting on the findings, co-author of the study, Dr Adrian Liston, of VIB and KU Leuven in Belgium, said: "This is the first time anyone has looked at the immune system profiles of two unrelated individuals in a close relationship."

"Since parenting is one of the most severe environmental challenges anyone willingly puts themselves through, it makes sense that it radically rewrites the immune system," he concluded while reflecting on the study's findings.

The study has been published in the journal of Nature Immunology.



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