March 31, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

Boys in the womb are more prone to certain problems than girls, but there’s “no need to panic,” says Prof. Marek Glezerman, who conducted the study.

It may sound like an old wives tale, but Israeli medical researchers have discovered that the age -old stories about boys being more trouble are true – at least when they are in the womb.

Based on data from more than 66,000 women who gave birth at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center between 1995 and 2006, doctors have come to some interesting conclusions about baby boys and girls.

According to Prof. Marek Glezerman, Dr. Yariv Yogev and Dr. Nir Melamed, who conducted the retrospective study, male fetuses carry “an independent risk factor” for a number of problems during the birthing process and before.

The researchers found that male babies are more at risk of being big than females; boys are at risk of preterm rupture of membranes, preterm delivery, abnormal fetal heart rate, and delivery by vacuum, forceps or cesarean section. Female fetuses on the other hand, are at risk of breech birth and restricted fetal growth, the study found.

Glezerman, chairman of the Helen Schneider Women’s Hospital and deputy director of the Rabin Medical Center, told ISRAEL21c that the results of the study should not be cause for concern, but that it adds to the more general framework of gender based medicine, within which he is specialized.

Gender can help assess medical condition

Gender based medicine was first pioneered in the US, according to Glezerman, and is “a relatively new approach to medicine,” he explains. “In general, it is taking into account that most research and drug assessment has been done in males only. Women are regarded as smaller men — most research has been done in men only.

“This is an approach that has matured in the past 10 years or so, and now departments in various disciplines are taking a closer view of gender, their diagnosis and what’s needed to treat [their patients],” he says.

Founder of the Israeli Society for Gender Based Medicine, Glezerman has presented a number of papers on his team’s data and gender-based medicine in general. “We look at cardiology, orthopedics, GI disease — each and every discipline. As a gynecologist I will look at the obstetrics part [of research] that doesn’t deal with females only.”

In his recent study, Glezerman and his team found that differences between males and females start before birth. The differences are slight, however. “There are no immediate implications one can take home that a male fetus will be in a higher risk category during pregnancy. It’s an additional parameter [a doctor can consider] while assessing a pregnancy,” he says.

“If signs of fetal distress would be included in an assessment, it would be more accurate if the baby was a boy as opposed to a girl.” However, he stresses: “The differences are not large and there is no need to panic.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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