9/11 attacks may have caused miscarriages of male fetuses

Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363

The odds of having a male baby tend to fall after a natural or social disaster, research has shown. The communal bereavement hypothesis may be one explanation for this drop. It asserts that the widespread distress that occurs after a disaster can also affect individuals, like pregnant women, who have never met the victims of the disaster. For pregnant women, this stress can lead to production of corticosteroids that adversely affect male more than female fetuses, suggests a new study.

Researchers from the University of California at Irvine found that the events of September 11, 2001, led to a rise in miscarriages of male fetuses. Using 1996 to 2002 fetal death data files from the National Vital Statistics System, which records fetal deaths at 20 weeks or more, and birth certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, the authors found that the odds of male fetal death increased unexpectedly in the United States (except for California) in September 2001. Further, the ratio of males expected to be born in December 2001 fell below expected values.

These findings suggest that the physiological response pregnant women experience after tragedies can threaten the gestation of male fetuses and serve as an indicator of how pregnant women react to societal stressors, the authors state. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00086).

See "Male fetal loss in the U.S. following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001," by Tim A. Bruckner, Ph.D., Ralph Catalano, Ph.D., M.R.P., and Jennifer Ahern, Ph.D., M.P.H., in the May 25, 2010 BMC Public Health 10, pp. 273.

Current as of November 2010
Internet Citation: 9/11 attacks may have caused miscarriages of male fetuses: Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363. November 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/nov10/1110RA17.html