There's an old wives tale that a difficult pregnancy means you're having a boy, and several new studies show that male births may be slightly more risky than female births.
The New York Times reports that a recent study of 66,000 births by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that male babies had a greater chance of problems like premature birth and the need to be delivered by Cesarean. The results are similar to a 2002 study that examined 90,000 births in 1988 and 1999 and found that women pregnant with boys were 1.5 times more likely than women pregnant with girls to experience arrest of descent, in which the fetus stops descending during the pushing stage of labor.
Scientists believe the larger head size of males or their higher levels of androgens may play a role, but they add that the risks are so small that we shouldn't start worrying that male births are "high risk." Nor should the new findings give credence to the old myth about determining a baby's gender.
But, we've seen new research used to back up ridiculous urban legends in the past. Last year, two studies found that women with a high sodium intake and high potassium intake were more likely to conceive boys, and women who skip breakfast and have a lower calorie intake in general were more likely to conceive girls. Some interpreted this as proof that the old advice to eat bananas for breakfast if you want boys is true.
Though newspapers ran with headlines saying women who wanted boys should load up on Cheerios and French fries, "The F-Word" blog pointed out that there were several problems with the research. Only 56% of the women with high-calorie diets had boys. Often research on how a woman's habits increase her chances of having a boy or girl seems less significant when you consider that there is a 50/50 chance the baby will have the desired gender anyway. Pregnancy-info.net has a rundown of the many old wives tales believed to reveal whether a woman is carrying a boy or girl, from mixing urine with Drano to checking which breast is bigger. Most have been debunked by researchers and even in those with some medical credibility, the differences are so slight that they won't really help determine the child's sex. Aside from an ultrasound or genetic testing, they only way to be 100% sure of the baby's gender is to wait until it's born or adopt.
[Image via stock.xchng.]
The Claim: Birth Complications Are More Likely With Boy [The New York Times]
Boy Or Girl? Fact Or Fiction? [Pregnancy-Info.net]