Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nature versus Culture

"The male may not survive pregnancy. He may not survive childhood. And, if he survives, he will be in relatively poor condition and not able to compete with more robust males for mating privileges."
"[The Quebec referendum on sovereignty] naturally generated significant stress in the Quebec population."
"I remember looking at the referendums -- the last one especially was almost like a Maltese election. There was a very real possibility Quebec would choose sovereignty. The 'No' side barely won."
Dr. Victor Grech, associate professor of pediatrics, University of Malta
Photo of fetus in utero at 28 weeks

There have been reports in the past of animals 'reabsorbing' the initial stages of pregnancy at times of existential crisis. Certainly when women suffer from malnutrition or simply haven't sufficient stored energy in the form of normal body fat on their skeletons, the result is a lack of normal hormonal activity, and menstruation ceases. Pregnancy is highly unlikely to occur under such circumstances.

And now research published in the latest edition of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada points out a bizarre phenomenon where mental stress is instrumental in pregnancies producing female babies to the detriment of male babies. It appears that it takes more energy from the pregnant mother's stores to produce a male baby than it does a female baby.

Not only are miscarriages more likely to occur during times of great physical and mental stress but when babies are lost through spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), the odds are that the higher number of such miscarriages will be male babies. Normal  gender ratios have males with a slight edge at birth over females (51.5% versus 48.5%).

Photo of fetus in utero at 36 weeks

Dr. Grech pointed out in an interview that male babies suffer greater incidents of congenital abnormalities and increased illnesses during childhood. But his studies also point to male foetuses being more physiologically vulnerable to stresses and trauma that their mothers are exposed to during dramatic events impacting on their lives.

In New York, for example, the numbers of male babies born dropped three months after the attacks of 9/11. The same phenomenon was observed in Germany after the reunification with East Germany. In Canada, a First Nation community in Sarnia, the Aamijiwnaang reserve, in the midst of chemical plants and refineries experienced a sharp drop in male babies being born.

One hypothesis has it that during times of stress, pregnant women have a tendency to spontaneously abort male foetuses more frequently than females "because males exert a higher metabolic demand on the mother", according to Dr. Grech, and as a result when they're born they may present with greater frailties.

Dr. Grech compared the annual births in Quebec and in Canada as a whole during the 1980 and 1995 referendum years, to the preceding year and the five years that followed, in each instance. The male birth ratio appeared lower in the two referendum years; the dip statistically meaningful only after the second referendum when it fell from 51.7% in January 1996, three months post-referendum, to 50.2% in May 1996, and then recovered.

"The effect seems to occur well into pregnancy", observed Dr. Grech, appearing to make pregnant women particularly vulnerable around the fifth month of pregnancy. "All of this is nothing", he went on, when compared to "gendercide", the selective abortion of female foetuses, a symbol of Asian preference for male babies and a tendency to destroy female foetuses.

"It has been calculated that at least 100 million women are missing, simply because they're female ... All of these studies pale to insignificance when compared to the deliberate destruction of female babies in utero", he stated, pointing out that Asian communities in Western countries continue to prefer male children, destroying female foetuses in the process.

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