The Grapevine

Pregnant Women More Likely To Have Baby Girl When Stressed

The effects of stress can lead to changes during pregnancy. Researchers found that it could increase their risk of miscarriage when expecting a boy, leading to more female babies being born during stressful times. 

The new study, published in the journal PNAS, highlights the impacts of both physical and psychological stress on babies while in the womb. Researchers analyzed the health and lifestyle of 187 pregnant women, ages 18 to 45.

Nearly 17 percent of the participants reported high levels of depression, anxiety and perceived stress, while 16 percent experienced physical stress, such as high daily blood pressure and greater caloric intake. The remaining women were healthy.

After dividing the participants into groups based on stress levels and causes, the researchers looked into the indicators of psychosocial, physical and lifestyle stress. The women received questionnaires, provided diaries and took daily physical tests.

Results showed that pregnant women have lower chances of having a boy when experiencing either physical or psychological stress. More girls were born during the study, with male-to-female ratios of 4:9 for mothers who were physically stressed and 2:3 for the psychologically stressed group. 

“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,” Catherine Monk, lead researcher and a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a press release

“Studies have shown that males are more vulnerable to adverse prenatal environments, suggesting 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,” she added. 

The effects of stress in pregnant women also increased the risk of premature birth and slower central nervous system development in babies. The researchers also found that the women who experienced psychological stress had more birth complications than physically stressed mothers.

Social support could play an important role during pregnancy. The research team said the women who received support from their family and friends during stressful times were able to give birth to healthy male babies. 

"Screening for depression and anxiety are gradually becoming a routine part of prenatal practice," Monk said. "But while our study was small, the results suggest enhancing social support is potentially an effective target for clinical intervention."

pregnant Pregnancy is among the most sensitive stages of life among women and the scientific community continues to find health conditions and factors that may put both the mother and baby at risk. Pixabay