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Fewer Boys Born Following 9/11 Attacks
Date:5/24/2010

Researchers suggest 'communal grieving' might have been felt across the country

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- In the months that followed the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Towers in New York City, pregnant women across the United States lost far more male fetuses than usual and fewer boys were born, researchers report.

In fact, 14 percent more male fetuses were lost in September 2001 than in any other month in the entire six-year study period.

The authors of the new study, appearing online May 24 in the journal BMC Public Health, hypothesize that this may be due to the phenomenon of "communal bereavement," in which many members of a society grieve together, even if they did not know the actual victims of a disaster.

Stressful times in a society typically lead to a decline in the number of males born, but it hasn't been clear if this was due to fewer males conceived or more male fetuses lost to miscarriage.

"We have a lot of reports that say the sex ratio of live births [i.e. the odds of a male birth] declines following population stressors, but very little work that has tried to tease out which of many mechanisms could be responsible," said study author Tim Bruckner, an assistant professor of public health/planning, policy and design at the University of California, Irvine.

The authors looked at data on fetal deaths between January 1996 and December 2002 in all 50 states, data that is gathered as part of the National Vital Statistics System.

The authors postulated that male fetuses may react more strongly than female fetuses to stress hormones created by the mother. This sensitivity, in turn, may play a part in natural selection, although this is far from proven.

"If you have a stressful environment, the variability in male reproductive fitness is very high as compared to females. Brad Pitt, as the alpha male, may be more likely to produce offspring than someone wh
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