According to an old wives’ tale, boys are “easier” on their pregnant Moms than girls.
Now, there’s solid scientific evidence to support the claim.
A 2017 study conducted at Ohio State University which examined gestational patterns in 80 pregnant mothers found that girl fetuses were far more likely to produce inflammation which weakened their mother’s immune system. With a compromised immune system, mothers of girls tended to experience greater discomfort – including achiness, fatigue, and increased stress, among other symptoms, researchers found.
Mothers were also at heightened risk for asthma and infectious disease — conditions that could affect the health of their fetus, too.
“This research helps women and their obstetricians recognize that fetal gender is one factor that may impact how a woman’s body responds to everyday immune challenges and can lead to further research into how differences in immune function may affect how a woman responds to different viruses,” study director Amanda Mitchell noted in a university release.
The finding that the sex of the fetus affects the gestational comfort of mothers is not entirely new. Obstetricians have long suspected – based on a hunch — that mothers with recurring morning sickness would give birth to a girl. But a spate of studies has since confirmed that link, and not just for morning sickness – and a related more severe condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – but for food cravings and other painful symptoms including severe pre-eclampsia.
In some cases, the issue may be hormonal. Women with morning sickness, for example, carry higher levels of the hCG hormone, which is found more often in girls.
In addition, higher levels of estrogen emanating from girl fetuses may induce elevated feelings of moodiness and even depression in the mother, adding to her sense of unease during pregnancy, research has shown.
Treatments for HG and morning sickness are available, but one needs to be careful with them. The most commonly used anti-nausea drugs are promethazine and meclizine You can receive either through an IV or as a suppository. They will reduce the discomfort – especially the vomiting, and the attendant dehydration, which can complicate a pregnancy, too – but will not cure the condition.
Boys turn out to be less troublesome for another reason. A 2007 study found a much higher incidence of preterm and premature births with male fetuses — possibly due to their higher average weight, researchers speculate. That also means pregnancies with boys may not last as long as those with girls – another boon to the mother.
Despite these patterns, researchers warn that pregnancies vary from mother to mother and are affected by a range of other factors besides the sex of the fetus.
Still, if the latest science is right, boys are less likely to give their mother grief during pregnancy, while girl fetuses are often a constant source of irritation, even clinging to their mother longer in the womb.
Maybe one shouldn’t extrapolate too far from these findings. Biology isn’t destiny after all. But could biology explain, in part, why mature mother-daughter relationships are so often fraught with peril?
Maybe Mom still hasn’t gotten over how “difficult” her daughter was.