Previous research in India on “male bias” has shown a preference for male children, particularly if the first child is a girl:
- Overall: 806 girls for 1000 boys
- For second children, if first child is a girl: 720 girls for 1000 boys
- For third children, if first two children are girls: 178 girls for 1000 boys
Previous research has shown that maternal depression is higher if the child is a girl and breastfeeding is less. This study extended the investigation by looking also at fathers. The sample was 479 families from St Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi in 2014-2015, a mainly middle class population. Both parents were interviewed about 48 hours after delivery and their depressive symptoms measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Breastfeeding was observed 5 days later.
During the study, the girl:boy ratio was 851:1000 at St Stephen’s Hospital and this was reflected in the sample of 479 babies.
Both mothers and fathers of girls are more likely to show symptoms of depression. The average scores for parents of girls were 5.54 (mothers) and 5.86 (fathers). The average scores for parents of boys were 2.43 (mothers) and 2.5 (fathers). If one parent reports depressive symptoms, the other was much more likely to. Of the mothers and fathers with high depression scores (>11), 91% of both were parents of baby girls.
The researchers found breastfeeding rates between first born boys and girls to be similar, but substantial differences in second children: 23% of baby girls with an older brother were breastfed, compared to 86% of boys with an older sister. Of the 25 babies in the study who received no breastmilk, 21 were girls. A statistical analysis showed that the lower breastfeeding rate is not explained by higher depression – the rates is independently related to the gender of the child.
The study points to the need to engage fathers in postnatal care, particularly around the promotion of mental health and breastfeeding.
Goyal K, Purbiya P, Lal SN, Kaur J, Anthwal P & Puliyel JM (2017), Correlation of infant gender with postpartum maternal and paternal depression and exclusive breastfeeding raters, Breastfeeding Medicine 12.5
Photo: Overseas Development Institute. Creative Commons.