Saturday, February 22, 2003

UB Reporter: Gender-related behavior
University at Buffalo Reporter
Study finds exposure to certain toxins can affect behavior
Contributing Editor

"Women's exposure to environmental contaminants that mimic the activity of human sex hormones during prenatal development can affect the masculinity and femininity of their offspring, UB researchers have found. However, the results seem to point to a shared influence of the parents' own gender-related behavior and exposure to the contaminants, which can act as "endocrine disrupters," according to David E. Sandberg, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and lead author on the research. The study appeared Friday in the journal Epidemiology. It supports the findings of an October study done in the Netherlands, which was the first to show a relationship between exposure to hormonally active agents in the environment and children's gender-role behavior. The UB study reports on gender behavior of boys and girls born to male and female anglers and their spouses who eat contaminated sport fish from the Great Lakes. Their findings show that in boys, the more fish the mother consumed, the more typically masculine the boy's behavior. Girls with one or more older siblings also showed more masculine behavior. In an interesting twist, results showed that girls who were breastfed longer showed more typically feminine behavior." [The article goes onto conclude that the researchers don't believe contaminants in breast milk have an impact, that only prenatal development is disrupted, and also that how the children were nurtured appears to impact their gender-related behaviour: "We speculate that mothers who breastfed are likely to be more traditional in their gender-role behaviour than women who don't, and that their daughters' behaviours reflect this." - JC]
Natural-born mother

February 22 2003

"She has written numerous books on childbirth and female sexuality, but women are sharply divided about Sheila Kitzinger's thoughts on medical intervention, writes Karen Kissane. A woman at Sydney Airport heard that Sheila Kitzinger, the high priestess of the natural childbirth movement, was expected any moment. "I know her books," the woman said. "Tell her she's a liar. She says you can push them out so easy; it's not like that at all." What does Kitzinger say to women who are wheeled out of labour wards wanting to burn her book - or her? "They've got to be angry with somebody, and I suppose I'm as good ... as anyone," she says with unruffled British calm. "Women who've had distressing experiences in childbirth ... feel they've been cheated, and that ... it must be the women who write books about childbirth who cheated them. But of course it isn't, because we know that birth can be beautiful and exultant."" [Until I read this article I had no idea that women were "sharply divided" about Sheila Kitzinger. I find this "blame the messenger" attitude profoundly disturbing - that we could be so removed from what is normal in labour we would lash out out at people like Kinzinger for "lying" to us. - JC]