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Pregnant women with increased stress less likely to have baby boy, finds study


Pregnant women with increased stress less likely to have baby boy, finds study
Would-be mothers must reduce stress during pregnancy if they want to have a baby boy is the bottom line of new research. It implies that pregnant women with increased physical and psychological stress are less likely to have a boy. 

Maternal stress during pregnancy is known to affect the development of the fetus and now a recent study has identified that Maternal prenatal stress influences offspring neurodevelopment and birth outcomes including the ratio of males to females born.

Researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and NewYork-Presbyterian have found that pregnant women experiencing physical and psychological stress are less likely to have a boy. On average, around 105 males are born for every 100 female births. But in this study, the sex ratio in the physically and psychologically stressed groups favoured girls, with male-to-female ratios of 4:9 and 2:3, respectively.

The study has been published online in the journal PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Other researchers have seen this pattern after social upheavals, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, after which the relative number of male births decreased,” says Monk. “This stress in women is likely of long-standing nature; studies have shown that males are more vulnerable to adverse prenatal environments, physical and psychological stress are less likely to have a boy. that highly stressed women may be less likely to give birth to a male due to the loss of prior male pregnancies, often without even knowing they were pregnant.”

Other Impacts of Maternal Stress according to the study are

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  • Physically stressed mothers, with higher blood pressure and caloric intake, were more likely to give birth prematurely than unstressed mothers.
  • Among physically stressed mothers, fetuses had reduced heart rate-movement coupling–an indicator of slower central nervous system development–compared with unstressed mothers.
  • Psychologically stressed mothers had more birth complications than physically stressed mothers.

“The womb is an influential first home, as important as the one a child is raised in, if not more so,” says study leader Catherine Monk, PhD, professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of Women’s Mental Health in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Because stress can manifest in a variety of ways, both as a subjective experience and in physical and lifestyle measurements, Monk and her colleagues examined 27 indicators of psychosocial, physical, and lifestyle stress collected from questionnaires, diaries, and daily physical assessments of 187 otherwise healthy pregnant women, ages 18 to 45.

About 17% (32) of the women were psychologically stressed, with clinically meaningful high levels of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. Another 16% (30) were physically stressed, with relatively higher daily blood pressure and greater caloric intake compared with other healthy pregnant women. The majority (nearly 67%, or 125) were healthy.

The researchers also found that what most differentiated the three groups was the amount of social support a mother received from friends and family. For example, the more social support a mother received, the greater the likelihood of her having a male baby.

When social support was statistically equalized across the groups, the stress effects on preterm birth disappeared. “Screening for depression and anxiety are gradually becoming a routine part of the prenatal practice,” says Monk. “But while our study was small, the results suggest enhancing social support is potentially an effective target for clinical intervention.”

An estimated 30% of pregnant women report psychosocial stress from job strain or related to depression and anxiety, according to the researchers. Such stress has been associated with increased risk of premature birth, which is linked to higher rates of infant mortality and of physical and mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety, among offspring.

How a mother’s mental state might specifically affect a fetus was not examined in the study. “We know from animal studies that exposure to high levels of stress can raise levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the uterus, which in turn can affect the fetus,” says Monk. “Stress can also affect the mother’s immune system, leading to changes that affect neurological and behavioural development in the fetus. What’s clear from our study is that maternal mental health matters, not only for the mother but also for her future child.”

For further reference log on to:

Kate Walsh et al, “Maternal prenatal stress phenotypes associate with fetal neurodevelopment and birth outcomes,” PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.190589011

Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Provided by Columbia University Irving Medical Center




Source: Columbia University Irving Medical Center

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  1. look slike X and Y chromosomes were in vacation when this happended

  2. In a female conceived with X chromosome sperm or Y chromosome sperm to form female zygote or male zygote, how stress level ( during pregnancy) of that pregnant woman can alter the sex of the fetus is beyond my imagination ( as the research suggests that would-be mother must reduce stress during pregnancy to have a baby boy).

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