Women who experience the most stress at the time of conception are twice as likely to give birth to a GIRL, study finds
- Experts tracked stress levels in 108 women from before conception to birth
- They did this by measuring the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples.
- Women who gave birth to girls had higher cortisol levels around conception
- The results confirm how vulnerable fetuses are to the impact of maternal stress
Women are twice as likely to give birth to a girl if they experienced more stress at the time of conception, according to a study.
Researchers from Spain recorded the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of 108 women from around week nine of their pregnancy until delivery.
Each hair measurement covered cortisol levels for the previous three months, meaning that the first measurement covered the period before conception and included.
The findings confirm that fetuses are vulnerable to the effects of maternal stress and that maternal stress can play a key role in their development.
Women are twice as likely to give birth to a girl if they experienced more stress at the time of conception, according to a study. In the photo: a newborn girl
“The results we found were surprising,” said author and psychologist María Isabel Peralta-Ramírez from the University of Granada.
“They showed that women who had given birth to girls had higher concentrations of cortisol in their hair in the weeks leading up to, during and after conception than did those who had boys.”
The findings add to growing evidence that stress experienced by mothers at the time of conception and during gestation can have an impact on the nature of pregnancy, birth, and even the neurological development of the baby.
“Our research group has shown in numerous publications how psychological stress in the mother generates a greater number of psychopathological symptoms during pregnancy,” said Professor Peralta-Ramírez.
Stress, she added, can also trigger “postpartum depression, an increased likelihood of assisted delivery, an increase in the time it takes for breastfeeding to begin, or a baby’s lower neurological development six months after birth.
This study, the team explained, is one of the few that has shown the impact of stress felt during and even before conception, rather than just the psychological stress experienced during pregnancy.
The findings add to growing evidence that stress experienced by mothers at the time of conception and during gestation can have an impact on the nature of pregnancy, birth, and even the neurological development of the baby. In the photo: a young woman experiences stress
According to the researchers, it is possible that their findings could be explained by the body’s ‘stress system’ modifying the concentration of sex hormones at the time of conception, but exactly how this would work is unclear.
There is evidence that testosterone could influence the sex determination of the baby, and the higher the prenatal stress levels, the higher the female testosterone levels.
Alternatively, the team explained, there is also evidence that sperm that carry the X chromosome, and thus the ability to conceive a female fetus, are better able to pass through cervical mucus under adverse circumstances.
“There are other possible hypotheses that try to explain this phenomenon,” explained Professor Peralta-Ramírez.
“Among the strongest theories is the idea that there are more miscarriages of male fetuses for medical reasons during the first weeks of gestation in situations of severe maternal stress,” he added.
“That said, in light of the design of these studies, it is recommended that the results be further corroborated.”
The full study findings were published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.
TIPS FOR A HEALTHY PREGNANCY
The pregnancy health charity Tommy’s offers a list of actions that would have a positive impact on the health of the pregnancy and the future child if performed before the mother stops contraception.
Take folic acid
Taking 400 mcg of folic acid a day for two months before stopping contraception can help protect babies for developing neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Give up smoking
Smoking during pregnancy causes 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 perinatal deaths per year in the UK.
Have a healthy weight
Being overweight before and during pregnancy increases your risk for potentially dangerous diseases like pre-eclampsia and diabetes.
Eat healthy and stay active
A healthy mother is more likely to give birth to a healthy baby, and both will help maintain a safe body weight.
Talk to your GP if you are taking medication
Some medications can affect pregnancy and it is best to see a GP as soon as possible.