New research out of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center suggests that fetal sex may impact how women feel during pregnancy.
Published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, this study followed 80 moms-to-be throughout each stage of their pregnancies, exposing their immune cells to bacteria and noting the response.
The group consisted of 46 women who were expecting males and 34 who had females on the way. The team, led by researcher Amanda Mitchell, paid special attention to proteins called cytokines, which are produced by cells as part of our immune response to disease and inflammation.
When studying blood samples of the expectant moms, the research team found no distinct difference in cytokine levels between those pregnant with males and those with females. However, the study gets interesting here: When researchers measured cytokine levels in cells exposed to the bacteria, women expecting girls showed markedly higher levels of the protein.
So what does this all mean? Mitchell told Medical News today, “Women carrying female fetuses exhibited a heightened inflammatory response when their immune system was challenged, compared to women carrying male fetuses.”
Translation: Women pregnant with girls may experience harsher symptoms of the same sickness that affects women carrying boys. Higher levels of cytokines may be partially to blame for some moms experiencing more severe asthma and allergies during pregnancy than others, the news report explains.
While the study’s authors call for more research to explore this link, Mitchell told MNT that fetal sex “is one factor that may impact how a woman’s body responds to everyday immune challenges… and may affect how a woman responds to different viruses, infections, or chronic health conditions.”