Lung profile: sex differences in normal pregnancy

Obstet Gynecol. 1985 Sep;66(3):327-30.


The incidence of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is higher in male than in female infants. The lung profiles--lecithin/sphingomyelin (L/S) ratios, percent disaturated (acetone precipitated) lecithin, phosphatidylglycerol, and phosphatidylinositol--were obtained in amniotic fluid during 164 normal pregnancies of 30 or more weeks' gestation. The profiles were evaluated to determine any sex differences in fetal development of the surfactant components. According to regression analysis the L/S ratios for females reached 2:1 at 33.7 weeks, which is 1.4 weeks earlier than males. A similar trend was evident for disaturated lecithin. Phosphatidylglycerol first appeared at 34 weeks' gestation for females and 35 weeks for males. The rate of the increase in phosphatidylglycerol was higher in females than in males. Phosphatidylinositol began to decrease after 36 weeks for females and fell to levels below that of males after 37 weeks' gestation. All four indexes of the lung profile revealed a higher degree of lung maturity in female than in male fetuses during the last two months of normal pregnancy. This explains a higher incidence of RDS in male than in female infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amniotic Fluid / analysis
  • Female
  • Fetal Organ Maturity
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / embryology*
  • Male
  • Phosphatidylcholines / analysis
  • Phosphatidylglycerols / analysis
  • Phosphatidylinositols / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Factors
  • Sphingomyelins / analysis


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylglycerols
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Sphingomyelins