Does Having A Baby Boy Cause Post-Partum Depression?

I saw this article called, How Depressing: It’s A Boy, today on MSN.  I only had time to scan over it briefly at the time, but being a mother of two boys, and having had suffered from post-partum depression (PPD), three months after Cole was born, of course I was interested in reading the study in detail.

After I read it, I was really upset for a variety of reasons.  For starters, this study only had 17 French women in it.  That is not enough of a sample to say for certain, what this study is suggesting.  Even the article pointed out that the “since the study was conducted on a very small group of women, it is possible the findings are just a statistical quirk.” 

The study also never even asked the women if they were hoping for a particular gender, yet they speculate that at least French mothers may prefer daughters to sons.  This is based on what?  Personal feelings?  There is no science backing this speculation up at all. 

I have known at least six women (myself included) who have suffered from various degrees of PPD over the years.  Four of them have been mothers of girls, and myself and one other mother, have been the mothers of boys.  If this French study studied my circle, they would have the opposite findings. 

For this study to hold any merit whatsoever, they would have to study a variety of women, on a MUCH larger scale, for several years, to see if the statistics they had,  (out of 17 mothers with severe depression, 13 of them had baby boys,) proved to be consistent with different and larger study groups.  I think this study was flawed and didn’t include enough subjects to draw a conclusion like they are claiming- that boys cause PPD. 

Personally, I think a major cause of PPD, is hormonal and a nutrient imbalance.  As soon as I started replenishing my levels of nutrients, especially the B vitamins and Omega-6’s, my depression went away.  I know that isn’t the case for everyone, but I think it is a really far stretch and drawing at straws to say because you have a boy you are at greater risk for PPD. 

I also think the temperament of the baby has a lot to do with it too.  Whether the baby is a boy or a girl, if a baby is a high needs baby, is a fussy baby, or cries constantly, obviously a mother’s stress level is going to increase, which could put her at a higher risk for developing PPD.  These babies are harder to take care of.  Not every mother with a baby like this has PPD, but if they want to find causes, certainly this could be another factor contributing to PPD than simply saying the gender is the cause of PPD.  How many of those mothers in the French study had babies that had colic, or cried constantly, or screamed if they weren’t being held at all hours of the day?  How many of these depressed mothers were severely sleep deprived, which can be another contributing factor to PPD.

I also have a MAJOR problem with another part of the writings in this study which claim that women want “mini-me’s” (daughters) not sons.  I find that VERY offensive, and how shallow and condescending is that to the millions and millions of mothers who have sons?  Suddenly we are all secretly longing for daughters so we can have our “mini-me’s.”  Absolutely insulting!

It gets worse- the study goes on to theorize that when a woman doesn’t get the gender (boy or girl) that she was hoping for “she is more likely to suffer from decreased quality of life or severe depression.”  Again, how insulting to every mother who may have hoped that she was having one gender over the other?  That doesn’t mean that every woman every time, who doesn’t get the gender of baby she was hoping for, is more likely to suffer from a decreased quality of life. 

Usually, the mothers who I know, (myself included), who were hoping for a boy or a girl, and then had the opposite gender they were hoping for, couldn’t imagine their life without their baby, and would not give him or her up for their “desired” gender in a million years. Their quality of life improves with their baby, not decreases.  This study paints women and mothers as so shallow- as if having a boy or a girl-your desired gender- is the key to happiness, and not having your desired gender causes mothers to suffer from severe depression.  I just don’t believe that is the case with the majority of mothers.

I also have to respond to the study’s claim that women really do prefer girls over boys, because girls are requested more often in overseas adoptions from couples in the West- especially in America.  I don’t think this claim is true at all,  just because girls are being requested to be adopted in overseas adoptions over boys. 

I believe the reason more baby girls are requested in adoptions outside the US, is in these countries, THEY (parents in these countries) don’t want girls and put them up for adoption more often than sons.  In many countries where Americans are allowed to adopt, sons are the preferred gender, and parents will abandon girls more often than sons, bringing them to orphanages. 

It seems to me that this is common knowledge, and women in the US, who want to adopt a baby from these countries know that.  They know they will have a shorter wait, and a better chance of adopting a baby if they request a girl, because there are more girls waiting to be adopted than boys.  It is a simple supply and demand situation.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this study because I think this study is complete nonsense and just something else to make mothers of sons worry needlessly about.  I didn’t want to “publicize” this study any more than it already has been.

My sister suggested I write a post about it, so if mothers who do read this study are troubled by it, and seek additional information, there would be something else- another viewpoint- to consider.  That is the only reason I am blogging about this. 

I believe most mothers love and cherish their babies, no matter what their gender is.  Post-partum depression does happen, but for it to be contributed only because a mother is depressed because she didn’t have a boy or a girl, is just so far fetched.

It is irresponsible for this study to be published  and publicized as it is, because there is no other studies that can back it up.  It can cause more harm and grief to mothers who may be suffering from depression- now they have to wonder if their baby’s gender could be causing their depression. 

Until there is evidence and several more mothers studied in this case, these types of studies serve no valuable purpose to mothers.  When the statistics in the study have a real possiblity of only being a “quirk,” don’t publish these types of “findings” until there is scientific evidence to back it up- with real, fact based, statistics. 

Now I am getting off my soapbox, and going to go tuck my two, loveable, sweet, adoring, sons who have brought me so much joy and happiness- whom I’d give my life for- into bed. 

Comments

  1. Auntie Mara says:

    I agree that the study is nonsense…coming from a academic background (I have my MA in psychology), we wouldn’t even GLANCE at a study that had such a small sample size. It is complete rubbish.

    However, I have to wonder why MSN even gave it consideration??? Why are we constantly looking for reasons to make women feel bad for having PPD? Why isn’t there more research backing the hormomal and nutritional changes that we go through when we have babies?

    Until women rule the scientific world, I think there will continue to be studies that are biased, tilted and inaccurate.

    Good post Heather!

    p.s. I had it and I have a girl and wanted a girl…not to have a “mini-me” but to braid her hair. :-)

  2. Sigh. I saw a similar story on the news and it made me very angry. It was billed as “boys are harder on mothers” and went into how boy pregnancies are harder (What!?) and mothers of boys are supposed to have more PPD…and then boys are just so wild and rough and tumble and hard to deal with.

    VERY irritating!!!

    I did have PPD after #2, but it had nothing to do with his sex!

    I do think American society gravely undervalues boys – and men. And I think that people who think boys are harder should maybe try seeing boys as people rather than “not girls” and stop expecting them to fit into neat little categories!

  3. Catherine says:

    I’m enjoying this blog and can really relate to many things. We had our two boys and I was so in love with them and happy and then was surprised with a wonderful daughter as well – I experienced depression after each of their births, no more or less with any. I don’t believe the baby’s sex has anything to do with the equation, unless it’s purely a physiological one related to the amount of one type of hormone flooding and then receding the mother’s system.

  4. I think women do want to adopt girls more than boys because we can finally be like men in wanting a child the same sex as ourselves and be honest about it. My mom was born in 1934 and she said that women have always wanted girls as much as men wanted boys. The difference was they had to pretend to want a boy “for the man’s sake” and “to carry on the name.” Women are more valued and have far been out succeding men or now for a long time. More go to college and graduate high school compared to men. Boys live at home longer than girls do too. Every friend and people that I know of that only have boys, they all love their son(s) but bitch about not having a girl. It may not be this way in every part of the world, but in the U.S. girls are at an all time high in popularity over boys.

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