ultrasoundWhen women in India find out they are pregnant with girls, prenatal care changes for the worse, according to research from the University of California and Michigan State University. Researchers found clear discrepancies between prenatal care provided to women pregnant with males compared to those pregnant with females.

More than 30,000 Indian women were surveyed for the study. The survey showed that women who were pregnant with male children were more likely to attend prenatal appointments, give birth in a healthcare setting and have tetanus shots, than women pregnant with female children. Tetanus is one of the leading causes of neonatal death in India. Children born to mothers who do not receive the tetanus shot tend to weigh less or die soon after birth.

After what appeared to be sex discrimination was revealed, researchers reviewed data collected from China, Pakistan and Bangladesh – all male-dominated societies – and found sex discrimination during pregnancies in these nations, as well. A review of non-male dominated societies like Thailand and Ghana showed no signs of sexual discrimination.

It is illegal in India to reveal the sex of an unborn child or to abort a child based on gender, but both occur. However, the discrimination experienced by mothers may not be evident, since the doctor learns the sex of the baby during an ultrasound, but the sex is not revealed to the expecting mother.

Researchers believe the sex discrimination revealed by the study is not as severe as the practice of aborting a fetus based on sex, though selective healthcare could have long-term effects based on current medical literature. Health in early childhood has been linked to health throughout life. If mothers of female infants receive lesser care than mothers of male infants, health of offspring could be compromised.

Source: Discrimination Begins in the Womb: Evidence of Sex-Selective Prenatal Investments. Michigan State University.

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