Giving birth to a baby boy puts more stress on a mother’s body and could lead to long-term health risks for the mum.
All developing babies create chemicals which are unfamiliar to their pregnant mother’s body. This can lead to inflammation and tissue damage in the body’s cells after labour, because the mum’s body thinks it is infected.
Researchers now believe male babies produce twice as many of these substances, known as free radicals, than females.
Having a son could therefore increase a woman’s risk of developing long-term problems including depression, heart disease and Alzheimer’s – all of which have been linked to oxidative stress.
While little girls were found to have a greater antioxidant defence than boys, and cause less biomolecular damage in their mums.
Javiar Diaz-Castro, of University of Granada, Spain, said giving birth to boys was no more painful, but caused greater damage to the mum’s cells – because males are more ‘aggressive’ chemically.
Dr Diaz-Castro, who co-authored the study, added: “In terms of the response in the mother’s body, having a girl causes less inflammation,” the Daily Mail reported.
The team also found that the bodies of baby girls show less signs of stress and inflammation after being born.
A separate study in 2014 suggested labour should be quicker when giving birth to a girl, because their oxytocin levels are higher.
Researchers studied 56 healthy pregnant women at the San Cecilio Clinic Hospital, in Grenada – who gave birth to 27 boys and 29 girls.
Blood was taken from the mums both before and after delivery, and then from the baby and umbilical cord – to analyse each sample for levels of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the result of the body not having enough antioxidants to tackle harmful free radicals.
Boys led to a bigger stress response from the mum, while girls produced higher antioxidant levels.
Mums of boys also had higher cholesterol levels as they went into labour.
Dr Diaz-Castro said the mum’s immune system would therefore be affected by the sex of her child.
The team did not continue to follow the mothers, but he believes that women who give birth to boys would have more long-term problems as they aged.
Dr Diaz-Castro added: “After having a baby girl the female body will be better adjusted.”
The study was published in the Paediatric Research journal, where researchers wrote: “Our findings open a new, exciting field of research centred on the neonate’s (newborn’s) sex as a risk factor for several functional alterations, with a great impact on the development of pathologies in the future.”
I must admit as a mother of two boys, this rings a few bells.
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