Pregnant woman cradles her belly while her husband holds signs reading boy or girlCraving sweets? Get ready for a girl. Are you carrying low? It’s a boy. There are plenty of other old wives’ tales about predicting a baby’s gender, but none of them appear to be backed up by science.
While many gender-predicting theories are myths, they’re not entirely fiction. A recent study from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center suggests that a pregnant woman’s body does respond differently based on the gender of the baby. However, it’s not happening in ways you might realize.
In the study, 80 women were followed throughout their pregnancies. Scientists monitored the levels of immune markers called cytokines in their blood and immune cells exposed to bacteria in a lab. Cytokines were then examined based on the baby’s gender.
Amanda Mitchell, principal investigator of the study, shares that, “While women didn’t exhibit differences in blood cytokine levels based on fetal sex, we did find that the immune cells of women carrying female fetuses produced more pro-inflammatory cytokines when exposed to bacteria.”
So what does that mean? When a pregnant woman expecting a girl has her immune system challenged, her body will show a higher inflammatory response than women carrying boys.
Inflammation is essential to healing when it comes to your immune system, and it’s a normal pregnancy symptom. However, too much inflammation can worsen symptoms of medical conditions, from eczema to asthma. The team at Ohio State believes this may be why moms of girls often have more severe symptoms, but more research is needed.
“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 and can lead to further research into how differences in immune function may affect how a woman responds to different viruses, infections or chronic health conditions (such as asthma), including whether these responses affect the health of the fetus,” Mitchell says.
Amanda Mitchell warns moms-to-be not to just try to boost their immune system, sharing that “it’s problematic to have too little or too great of an immune response.” To support a healthy immune system, make sure to eat leafy greens, exercise, and make time to meditate. And, of course, it’s always important to check with your doctor before you make any changes to your routine or diet.
Another study, published in Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, suggests there may be different changes in a woman’s body depending on which gender she is carrying. According to the study, the baby’s gender is linked to its mother’s immune response. Researchers found that women carrying girls have a heightened immune response to challenges their body faces compared to women pregnant with boys. They suggested the resulting inflammation could play a role in food cravings, morning sickness, and explain why some conditions like allergies or asthma may worsen in pregnancy
It is important to remember every pregnancy, regardless of the baby’s gender, is unique for every woman. Pregnancy symptoms and the experience of pregnancy as a whole can vary significantly. Always make sure to discuss your pregnancy concerns with a trusted healthcare professional.