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Pregnancy complications are more likely to affect mothers carrying boys

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Posted July 14, 2016

Coming into life is not always smooth and easy – some births face some serious issues, which can cause health problems later in baby‘s life. Although it may look like everyone should face equal risk of pregnancy complications, a recent study showed it is not quite like that. Team of scientists led by the University of Adelaide proved that boy babies are more likely to experience potentially life-threatening outcomes.

Mothers expecting baby boys face a significantly greater risk of such complications as pre-term birth, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure disorders, and gestational diabetes mellitus. Image credit: Øyvind Holmstad via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Mothers expecting baby boys face a significantly greater risk of such complications as pre-term birth, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure disorders, and gestational diabetes mellitus. Image credit: Øyvind Holmstad via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-4.0

The study itself is very impressive because of methods applied. First of all, scientists took a look at more than 574,000 South Australian births over a 30-year period. Secondly, it is the first study of its kind to look at the potential differences in birth outcomes of baby girls and baby boys. And, as scientists found, differences are very significant. These birth complications include pre-term birth, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure disorders, and gestational diabetes mellitus.

In short, study revealed that boys are more likely to be born spontaneously pre-term – this risk varies from 17% to 27% depending on the week of the pregnancy. Furthermore, it has been found that mothers who are carrying male babies face about 4% higher risk of gestational diabetes and 7.5% higher risk of pre-eclampsia at term. However, researchers also found that early onset pre-eclampsia requiring a pre-term delivery is more likely to occur for women carrying a girl – they face even 22% higher risk than mothers carrying boys.

Professor Claire Roberts, leader and senior author of the paper, said: “The placenta is critical for pregnancy success. We believe that sex differences in placental function may explain the differences we’re seeing in outcomes for newborn boys and girls, and their mothers”. This leads to next steps for the study – scientists now are going to investigate consequences of these differences between sexes of the babies and how they influence path towards pregnancy complications.

This study has some important implications. Although it is already very long, it is going to take some time for scientists to reach final conclusions and to understand the mechanisms behind these processes. However, the result may be specific interventions of practitioners, tailored to male and female babies, which can potentially save many lives.

Source: adelaide.edu.au

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