Does fetal sex affect pregnancy outcome?

Gend Med. 2007 Mar;4(1):19-30. doi: 10.1016/s1550-8579(07)80004-0.


Background: In maternal fetal medicine, gender differences in outcome are often observed.

Objective: This article reviews the fetal sex-dependent differences found in many aspects of pregnancy, from conception through birth.

Methods: The MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Current Contents databases were searched, for the years 1985 to 2006, using the following Medical Subject Headings and text words: fetal gender, finale, female, sex ratio at birth, pregnancy outcome, preterm birth, and stillbirth. The search was not limited by language. In addition, the bibliographies of known relevant articles were examined to capture any reports not already identified in the electronic search. All reports that provided information on gender differences in pregnancy outcome were included for review.

Results: An extremely high male-to-female ratio was found in fetuses born after very short-duration pregnancy; this level declined around the 20th week and stabilized at term. In the absence of manipulation, both the sex ratio at birth and the population sex ratio have been found to remain consistent. A higher incidence of preterm birth and premature preterm rupture of membranes has been observed in different populations among mothers of male newborns compared with mothers of females. It has been speculated that this higher incidence may be linked to the relatively greater weight at lower gestational age of male newborns versus females. Women carrying male fetuses had higher rates of gestational diabetes mellitus, fetal macrosomia, failure to progress during the first and second stages of labor, cord prolapse, nuchal cord, and true umbilical cord knots. Cesarean sections were also more frequently found among male neonates compared with females.

Conclusions: Male sex is an independent risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcome. Evidence suggests that females have an advantage over males, with a better outcome in the perinatal period, particularly after preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations / embryology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Fetal Diseases / genetics
  • Fetus* / metabolism
  • Fetus* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors*
  • Sex Ratio
  • Stillbirth