Mothers of boys much more likely to have postnatal depression

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Gentlemen, don’t take this personally but a new study finds that giving birth to boys instead of girls is much more likely — 79% more likely, in fact — to result in the mother suffering postnatal depressiong (PND).

It’s not just boys who are trouble-makers. The University of Kent researchers found that women whose births had complications were 174% more likely to experience PND compared to those women who had no complications.

“PND is a condition that is avoidable, and it has been shown that giving women at risk extra help and support can make it less likely to develop,” said Dr. Sarah Johns, one of the researchers, in a news release. “The finding that having a baby boy or a difficult birth increases a woman’s risk gives health practitioners two new and easy ways to identify women who would particularly benefit from additional support in the first few weeks and months.”

As a result of their findings, Dr Sarah Johns and Dr Sarah Myers in the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation (SAC), conclude that recognizing that both male infants and birth complications are PND risk factors should help health professionals in identifying and supporting women who may by more likely to develop this condition.


The study also found that while women with a tendency towards symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress were always at increased risk of PND, they had reduced odds of developing PND after experiencing birth complications. This is likely because these women may receive greater post-birth support because their mental health concerns were previously recognized — suggesting that such interventions can help prevent PND.

The finding that birthing boys is more likely to be troublesome isn’t completely surprising. Both the gestation of male fetuses and the experience of birth complications have documented associations with increased inflammation, yet, until this study, their relationships with PND were unclear.

Many known risk factors for depressive symptoms are associated with activation of inflammatory pathways, opening up the potential for identifying new risk factors based on their inflammation causing effects — an idea supported by this study.

The study used complete reproductive histories of 296 women from contemporary, low fertility populations. The study is published in Social Science & Medicine.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for ConsumerAffairs.com and FairfaxNews.com.