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Friday, August 26, 2005

From which parent does a baby receive its blood?

Dear Dr. Amy,

I realize the placenta is responsible for working as a trading post between the mother's and the baby's blood supply, but I was wondering; from which parent does a child receive its blood? Some folks attribute certain body parts from either parent (genes) and I was wondering from which parent does the child receive its blood. I've heard that the father is the primary source, via his sperm. Is this true? Thank you very much.

Kind Regards,
Mickey

Dear Mickey,

A baby does not receive its body parts from one parent or the other. A baby gets half its chromosomes from the mother, and half from the father. These chromosomes determine the traits that a baby will have.

There are 23 pairs of chromosomes, numbered from 1-22 plus the sex chromosomes (X and X for a girl, X and Y for a boy). The baby gets one chromosome 1 from mom, and one chromosome 1 from dad; one chromosome 2 from mom and 1 chromosome 2 from dad, and so on through all the chromosomes. When it comes to the sex chromosomes, the baby always gets an X from mom (since she has 2 X's), but can get either an X or Y from dad. This is what determines the baby's sex.

All the other characteristics are determined by the interactions between the two sets of chromosomes. For example, if the mom's blood type is A and the dad's blood type is B, the baby could have the blood type AB. However, if the mom's blood type is A and the dad's blood type is O, the baby will have A blood because A is dominant over (stronger than) O. I am simplifying here, but the basic principle is that every part of the baby is determined by the contribution of both parents.

Sincerely,
Amy

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