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Health & Pregnancy

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Sick of Pregnancy? You Could Be Having A Girl

WebMD Health News

Dec. 10, 1999 (Atlanta) -- The following statement is likely to offend about half the people reading this: Girl babies may cause a greater incidence of severe morning sickness among pregnant women than boy babies. And following that line of thought, if a woman is very sick during her first trimester, should she just go ahead and paint the baby's room pink? Well, don't get the color palettes out just yet.

In the Dec. 10 issue of the journal The Lancet, Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm present a study of over one million pregnant women that shows those who suffered severe morning sickness during the first trimester were more likely to have girls than boys. This was not typical morning sickness but a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which is morning sickness that's bad enough to require hospitalization.

The investigators looked at all Swedish births from 1987 to 1995 and found that the ratio of girls to boys was about 49% to 51%. Among those women 5,900 were admitted to the hospital with severe morning sickness during the first three months of pregnancy; they had more girls than boys (56% girls to 44% boys). Women who became ill after the first trimester returned to the more equal ratio of boys to girls.

The thinking, according to lead investigator Johan Askling, MD, goes like this: There is a hormone present in pregnancy called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is a variant of the hormone used to signal pregnancy in home pregnancy tests. Though no one knows what causes morning sickness, some research suggests the hormone might play a part in the nausea, Askling tells WebMD. Since studies have also indicated a slight difference in hCG among boy and girl fetuses, the researchers decided to see if there was a connection between sex ratio, the hormone and severe nausea.

"We believe that there is something causing morning sickness that is more common among female pregnancies, like human chorionic gonadotropin," Askling tells WebMD. "Studies performed in later pregnancy beyond the first trimester have shown a slight sex difference in the main level of this hormone, so that female pregnancies tend to have a slightly higher level of this hormone, and we speculated ... that if the same sex difference in this hormone level exists in the early part of the pregnancy, and if this hormone is truly related to the occurrence of morning sickness, then we would perhaps expect an altered sex ratio among women suffering from severe nausea."

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