- Book suggests pregnant woman’s choices can affect baby’s lifestyle
- Suggestions made in Professor Dick Swaab’s book We Are Our Brains
A controversial new study claims that decisions made by women when they are pregnant can affect their babies brains including determining their sexuality, intelligence and chances of developing autism.
The suggestion that the lifestyle of an expectant mother can affect their offspring’s development has been put forward in Professor Dick Swaab’s new book We Are Our Brains.
The professor of neurology at Amsterdam University claims that the chance of having a child who is gay can be determined by a range of factors including how stressed pregnant women are as well as whether they smoke and their exposure to amphetamines.
‘Pre-birth exposure to both nicotine and amphetamines increases the chance of lesbian daughters,’ said Swaab.
‘Pregnant women suffering from stress are also more likely to have homosexual children of both genders because their raised level of the stress hormone cortisol affects the production of foetal sex hormones,’ Swaab said reported The Sunday Times.
The development of the brain is such a delicate process during pregnancy that Swaab believes any small changes can have a major impact on a person’s life.
A key example of this was in a study which found that women who took the synthetic estrogen DES when pregnant were more likely to have daughters with bisexual or homosexual tendencies.
The drug was widely prescribed to pregnant women as an anti-miscarriage drug for more than 20 years and researchers found that eight of the 117 DES daughters studied had bisexual or homosexual tendencies, while none did in a carefully selected 117-woman control group.
Some traits are dictated by nature.
Research has previously found that boys with older brothers are more likely to be homosexual than those with sisters, younger brothers or no siblings at all.
For every older brother a man has, the chances of him being gay increases by 33 per cent, according to Canadian psychologist Ray Blanchard.
HOW A BABY’S BRAIN CAN BE INFLUENCED BY MOTHER’S LIFE
Traffic pollution: Traffic fumes and industrial air pollution can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism.
Stress: Foetal sex hormones can be affected when stress prompts the release of chemical messengers.
Smoking: Can reduce IQ.
Alcohol: Another link was an expectant mother’s alcohol consumption which can affect how new brain cells integrate into the growing brain.
Sexuality: The chances of a child being gay may be raised by the expectant mother’s consumption of drugs such as nicotine and amphetamines.
Former Aston Villa, West Ham and German international footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger who announced he was gay earlier this month has five older brothers and one sister.
The report suggest that this could be due to a mother’s immune system developing stronger responses to the male hormone produced by boy babies during each pregnancy.
Another link was an expectant mother’s alcohol consumption which can affect how new brain cells integrate into the growing brain.
The NHS advises pregnant woman that if they choose to drink they must ‘protect your baby by not drinking more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week, and don’t get drunk.’
And Swaab says that studies show the pronounced effect alcohol can have on children.
‘Even in women who drink just a glass of wine a day we see effects (such as) lower IQ and hyperactivity.’
Other links made in the study suggest that exposure to traffic fumes and industrial air pollution can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found the risk was doubled for women living in the most polluted locations.
‘Our findings raise concerns since, depending on the pollutant, 20 per cent to 60 per cent of the women in our study lived in areas where risk of autism was elevated,’ said lead scientist Dr Andrea Roberts.
The suggestion that the lifestyle of an expectant mother an affect their offspring’s development has been put forward in Professor Dick Swaab’s new book We Are Our Brains