We all want a healthy baby, but we probably have a gender preference for various personal and even health reasons. That is why gender-predicting calendars exist, getting a genetic test or an ultrasound is a big deal, and Filipino pamahiins that deal with gender prediction persist. If your tummy is round, you’re probably expecting a baby girl. If it’s a little pointy, then it’s a boy. Sometimes the basis is a soon-to-be mom’s appearance (we hope we can stop with this one).
This new study from researchers from the Ohio State Univerity Wexner Medical Center, however, offers a different take. It suggests a pregnant woman’s body may react differently if she’s carrying a boy or a girl. But it’s not in the way her tummy is shaped or if her skin is basking in pregnancy glow.
The researchers observed pregnant women and monitored the levels of cytokines in their blood. Cytokines, which are immune markers in cells that were exposed to bacteria in the lab, were cross-referenced based on the sex of the unborn baby.
The study, published in the February issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, found that women’s cytokine levels were the same regardless if they’re carrying a boy or a girl. But “the immune cells of women carrying female fetuses produced more pro-inflammatory cytokines when exposed to bacteria,” lead study author Amanda Mitchell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center said in a press release.
It means the preggos carrying girls with baby girls have a more “heightened inflammatory response when their immune system was challenged,” compared to women carrying boys, Mitchell explained.
According to the press release, “inflammation is a critical part of the immune response involved in wound healing and responses to viruses, bacteria and chronic illnesses. However, excessive inflammation is stressful to the body and can contribute to sickness-related symptoms, such as achiness and fatigue. While more research is needed, the heightened inflammation the study saw among women carrying female fetuses could play a role in why women tend to experience exacerbated symptoms of some medical conditions, including asthma, when carrying a female versus a male fetus.”
Today, we rely on a genetic test or an ultrasound scan to determine the sex of an unborn baby now. But to know how a gender affects a preggo’s health, doctors can do targeted care if you will to help a pregnant woman’s body respond to everyday immune challenges.
“It’s important to think about supporting healthy immune function, which doesn’t necessarily mean boosting it – it’s problematic to have too little or too great of an immune response. That being said, research has shown that exercise supports healthy immune functioning, as does eating some foods, like leafy greens, and relaxing with activities like meditation. Of course, it’s always important to check with your health,” Mitchell added.