KNOWING if you’re having a boy or girl before they’re born could give them a better chance of surviving.
Male babies are more likely to have complications, a new study has suggested.
This could be because they grow faster in the womb – and therefore need more nutrients and oxygen than given through the placenta by the mum.
The sex of a foetus can change how the placenta works, along with factors like the mum’s weight and stress levels.
The placenta is a temporary organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus during pregnancy, which helps the baby grow.
Around one in ten women suffer with pregnancy disorders – like life-threatening high blood pressure conditions or foetal growth restriction.
This is when an unborn child is not growing at the normal rate – in the most severe cases it can lead to stillbirth.
Both of these conditions are tricky to predict and then treat.
This study, based on analysis of pregnancies in lab mice, found planning ahead for possible problems would be easier if women knew the sex of their unborn child.
They would be able to have individual treatment plans and be ready for lifestyle changes, that could lead to better survival chances and health benefits for the children.
Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri carried out the research with her University of Cambridge team.
She said: “Often parents don’t want to know the baby’s sex because they want it to be a surprise.
“But actually knowing the sex would help to identify whether a pregnancy may be at greater risk than another because we know that some conditions of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and foetal growth restriction can be more prevalent in women that carry male babies than females.
“We don’t quite know 100 per cent why that is but it might be related to the fact that male babies grow faster within the womb.
“So it might be that their demands for nutrients and oxygen supplied from the mother through the placenta can easily become limited, so the male baby may not be receiving all that it really wants and needs to grow to its full capacity.
“It may be that its resilience against stresses or poor conditions in pregnancy may be lower than say, for females, who have got less requirements.”
The team published the findings in the journal Biology of Reproduction.
Dr Sferruzzi-Perri said: “The data that we’ve been generating in the lab has really shown us that we have to consider the sex of the baby when monitoring a pregnancy.
“Therefore maybe treatments should be tailored based on the sex of the baby.”
Baby boys are more likely to be born early and spark gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, previous studies have found.
Research from the University of Adelaide found boys have a 27 per cent higher risk for a pre-term birth between 20-24 weeks’ gestation, 24 per cent higher risk for a pre-term birth between 30-33 weeks, and 17 per cent higher risk for pre-term birth between 34-36 weeks.
But it also said pregnant women carrying a girl have a 22 per cent higher risk for early onset pre-eclampsia requiring a pre-term delivery.
Lead author Dr Petra Verburg said: “Our results indicate there may be a need for specific interventions tailored to male and female babies, to prevent adverse outcomes for both child and mother.”
And research leader and senior author Professor Claire Roberts added: “The major conclusion of our study is that the evidence is there and it is very clear: the sex of the baby has a direct association with pregnancy outcomes.”
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