Ohio State Study: Moms-to-be may be healthier if having a boyResearchers found that bacteria caused a greater pro-inflammatory response in the immune cells of women carrying a girl, meaning they might be more susceptible to illness, than in women carrying boys.Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Could the sex of your baby affect your health?

For ages, women have claimed that the sex of their baby influences everything from food cravings to morning sickness. A new study published by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center seems to support this long-held theory.

Boys & girls: what researchers learned

The study, published in the February 2017 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, shows the sex of a baby is associated with immune responses in pregnant women. Bacteria caused a greater pro-inflammatory response in the immune cells of women carrying a girl, meaning they might be more susceptible to illness, than in women carrying boys, according to Amanda Mitchell, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State.

“This research helps women and their obstetricians recognize that fetal sex is one factor that may impact how a woman’s body responds to everyday immune challenges such as wound healing and responses to viruses and bacteria,” says Mitchell.

Related Article: Maternal Bacterial Infections Trigger Abnormal Proliferation of Neurons in Fetal Brain

The study followed 80 pregnant women across the course of their pregnancy and examined whether they exhibited different levels of immune markers based on the gender of the baby. Those immune markers were exposed to bacteria in the lab and analyzed.

What this means for expectant mothers

Video credit: OSU Wexner Medical Center

“While maternal inflammation can affect outcomes related to the fetus—such as timing of birth—more research is needed to know how the baby’s sex is associated with the wellness of moms-to-be. Factors such as hormone levels in the placenta may affect the mother’s health,” Mitchell explains.

Regardless, it’s always important for expectant mothers to think about maintaining a healthy immune system. Research has shown regular exercise promotes a healthy immune system, as does eating certain foods such as leafy greens and taking time to relax. Moms-to be should be sure to check with their healthcare providers before making any changes to their exercise routine or diet.

And no surprise to all the women who have ever been pregnant: Science is finally backing up what they’ve been saying all along. Their baby's gender really can affect how they feel throughout their pregnancy.