Giving birth to a boy can lead to higher levels of severe
post-natal depression (PND) and reduced quality of life
than having a girl, according to research published in
the February issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing.
A team of researchers led by Professor Claude de Tychey,
from Universite Nancy 2, France, found that just under
a third of the 181 women they studied four to eight weeks
after delivery had PND.
Nine per cent of the women in the study carried
out in a French community where they didnt face
cultural pressures over the sex of their baby - had severe
PND and just over three-quarters of those had given birth
The team also discovered that, even if women didnt
have postnatal depression, giving birth to a boy was significantly
more likely to reduce their quality of life than delivering
Post-natal depression is very common and poses
a major public health problem, especially if it is not
diagnosed and treated stresses Professor de Tychey.
When we launched our research, our main aim was
to study the effect that gender has on PND. But the overwhelming
finding of the study was the fact that gender appears
to play a significant role in reduced quality of life
as well as an increased chance of severe PND.
The researchers measured the womens quality of
life using a validated questionnaire containing 36 questions.
This asked the women to score eight dimensions of their
health physical functioning, physical role, bodily
pain, mental health, emotional role, social functioning,
vitality and general health - using a 100-point scale.
The results were then collated into male and female births
and whether the woman had no, mild or severe PND. Scores
were also calculated for their overall physical and mental
health. This provided 60 separate quality of life scores.
When the researchers looked at overall results they discovered
* Women who had given birth to a boy reported lower quality
of life scores in 70 per cent of cases compared with women
who had delivered a girl, regardless of whether they suffered
* When the 10 quality of life scores were added together
in each category, women who had no PND had the highest
quality of life scores - 713 points for women who had
given birth to girls and 648 for women who had delivered
* When the researchers looked at women with PND, they
found higher quality of life scores for women who had
delivered girls 567 if the PND was mild and 541
if it was severe. Women who had delivered boys scored
lower totals of 539 if the PND was mild and 498 if it
The figures also enabled the researchers to compare the
gender differences for women with no, mild and severe
PND. This showed that:
* Gender differences were greatest in women who had no
PND. If they had given birth to a boy they had lower quality
of life scores in 90 per cent of categories than those
who had delivered girls.
* Women with PND also reported lower quality of life
scores if they had had a boy these were lower in
50 per cent of categories if the PND was mild and in 70
per cent of categories if the PND was severe.
These figures show very clearly that having a boy
resulted in lower quality of life scores in all cases
says Professor de Tychey.
We also discovered that being a first-time mother
had no effect on quality of life scores. Women had the
same general scores regardless of whether the recent birth
was their first or second baby.
Just over half of the women who took part (52 per cent)
had given birth to boys. 61 per cent of the babies included
in the study were first babies (55 boys and 56 girls)
and the remainder were second babies.
Women having their second baby were slightly more likely
to have had a girl the first time around (59 per cent).
The womens ages ranged from 19 to 40 and averaged
Post-natal depression can have a considerable impact
on women as it can affect both their physical and mental
health stresses Professor de Tychey.
Previous studies have shown that women who live
in cultures where greater value is placed on sons are
more likely to suffer from PND if they give birth to a
However, we believe that this study carried
out in a French community where women didnt face
cultural pressures over the sex of their baby is
the first to show that women who give birth to boys are
more likely to suffer from severe PND and reduced quality
of life. Further research is needed to find out why this
We believe that our findings have important public
health consequences, as they point to the need for developing
prevention and early psychotherapeutic programmes for
women giving birth to boys.