-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A stressful early pregnancy
could lower a woman's odds for delivering a boy and raise her risk
for premature delivery, a new study suggests.
The findings from an investigation of how the stress of a major
2005 earthquake affected pregnant women in Chile suggest that
pregnancy can be impacted by exposure to stress itself rather than
the factors that often accompany or cause stress, such as poverty,
the researchers said.
The investigators analyzed the birth certificates of all the
babies born in Chile between 2004 and 2006, which was more than
200,000 per year. The birth records provided information about the
babies and their mothers, including how close the mothers lived to
the epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake.
Reporting in the Dec. 8 issue of
Human Reproduction, the study authors found that exposure to the earthquake during the third month of pregnancy reduced the ratio of male to female births.
"Generally, there are more male than female live births. The ratio of male to female births is approximately 51:49 -- in other words, out of every 100 births, 51 will be boys. Our findings indicate a 5.8 percent decline in this proportion, which would translate into a ratio of 45 male births per 100 births, so that there are now more female than male births. This is a significant change for this type of measure," Dr. Karine Kleinhaus, an assistant professor of psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology, and environmental medicine at New York University, said in a journal news release.
This finding may be related to previous research, which has
found that male fetuses tend to grow larger than females and need
more resources from the mother, and therefore are more likely to
miscarry in times of stress. In addition, male fetuses may be less
robust than females and may be less capable of adapting their
development to a stressful environment in the womb.
The study also revealed that women who experienced the
earthquake during their second and third months of pregnancy had
shorter pregnancies and were more likely to have premature
Compared to women in parts of Chile unaffected by the
earthquake, the pregnancies of women exposed to the earthquake in
the second month of pregnancy were an average of 1.3 days shorter,
and the pregnancies of those exposed to the earthquake in the third
month of pregnancy were an average of about 2 days shorter, the
More than nine in 100 women exposed to the earthquake in the
third month of pregnancy had a premature baby, a 3.4 percent
increase over the normal rate of about six in 100. The effect was
most notable among baby girls -- close to a 4 percent increase in
premature birth if the mother was exposed to the earthquake in the
second month of pregnancy and a 3.8 percent increase if it occurred
in the third month.
Earthquake exposure had no statistically significant effect on
the risk of having a premature baby boy, the researchers noted.
The March of Dimes has more about
stress and pregnancy.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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