Stressed mums-to-be ‘ have more baby girls’

Daily Mail - - News - By Vic­to­ria Allen Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent

WOMEN who suf­fer from stress dur­ing preg­nancy are more likely to have a girl, re­search sug­gests.

A study found that 60 per cent of moth­ers-to-be who felt over­whelmed, anx­ious or de­pressed went on to have a fe­male baby.

More than two-thirds of women who showed phys­i­cal signs of stress, like high blood pres­sure and comfort eat­ing, gave birth to girls. The find­ings do not sug­gest the pres­sures of ev­ery­day life can change a baby’s sex in the womb.

How­ever, ex­perts be­lieve anx­ious women are less likely to achieve a suc­cess­ful preg­nancy with a boy as male foe­tuses are more vul­ner­a­ble to stress hor­mones en­ter­ing the womb.

Al­though many stressed women give birth to girls, they may have had failed preg­nan­cies with boys be­fore – per­haps in the very early stages be­fore they even re­alised they were preg­nant.

Re­searchers in the US split 187 women into three groups – those hav­ing healthy preg­nan­cies, those show­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal signs of stress and those with phys­i­cal signs. In the group of psy­cho­log­i­cally-stressed women, only 40 per cent gave birth to a boy.

Among those who showed phys­i­cal signs of stress, al­most 70 per cent gave birth to girls.

Study lead au­thor Dr Cather­ine Monk said: ‘We have known for a while that males are more vul­ner­a­ble than fe­males in the womb. This study sug­gests that women’s men­tal well-be­ing and stress lev­els in preg­nancy not only mat­ter for them but could im­pact the next gen­er­a­tion.’

To de­ter­mine stress lev­els, re­searchers ques­tioned women and fit­ted them with a blood pres­sure cuff. One in six were psy­cho­log­i­cally stressed. For ev­ery two boys born in this group, three girls were born.

An­other one in six showed signs of phys­i­cal stress. For ev­ery four boys born among these women, nine girls were born. The study, car­ried out at the New York-Pres­by­te­rian/Columbia Uni­ver­sity Irv­ing Med­i­cal Cen­tre, sug­gests that girls may be bet­ter at with­stand­ing the bi­o­log­i­cal ef­fects of stress in the womb.

Male em­bryos, which do not cope as well, might fail to im­plant or be lost in an early mis­car­riage.

Re­searchers also found that the sons of stressed moth­ers are more likely to be born pre­ma­turely.

How­ever the study showed so­cial sup­port may help to pre­vent pre­ma­ture births and the re­duc­tion in boys. Women who said they had peo­ple they could talk to and rely on for help were more likely to give birth to a boy.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that fe­male foe­tuses are tougher and more likely to sur­vive. The link be­tween ma­ter­nal stress and baby gen­der has been iden­ti­fied be­fore. Birth rates of boys fell in the US af­ter the Septem­ber 11 ter­ror at­tacks in 2001 and the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy in 1963.

The new study was pub­lished in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences.

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