Baby Boys Have More Strokes Than Baby Girls

Did you know that baby boys are more prone to having a stroke during infancy than baby girls? Another surprising fact- neonatal strokes affect boys more seriously than they affect girls. A neonatal stroke is a stroke during a child's first months of life. Because a neonatal stroke happens when a baby is so young, it contributes to developmental problems, physical handicaps, learning disabilities and possibly even to behavioral and emotional disorders.


The difference between baby boys and baby girls

Baby boys experience strokes more often than baby girls. When a new baby has a stroke, the baby's brain suffers from abnormalities that may make it difficult for the growing child to process information or produce normal physical movements. A neonatal stroke may prevent a child from learning important skills later in life. Strokes and their long-term consequences have been found to have a more serious impact on boys than on girls.

Some risk factors for neonatal strokes include problems with the mother's pregnancy, such as drug abuse, physical or emotional trauma and severe infections. Other risk factors include birth defects that affect the baby’s heart, blood vessels, brain or blood clotting functions. The question is- why do these risk factors end up hurting boys more than girls?


The gender/stroke difference between babies and adults

Overall, strokes are more common in adult women than in adult men.

Part of the reason for this is that strokes in adults are caused by a number of long-standing health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cerebrovascular disease. Because women tend to live longer, the cumulative effects of these illnesses contribute to women’s higher risk of stroke over a longer lifetime.

However, neonatal stroke is different. It is usually a consequence of an inborn genetic heart defect or even a traumatic pregnancy, not a long-term health problem. Nevertheless, this still does not explain the difference in strokes between infant boys and infant girls.


Why do baby boys have more strokes than baby girls?

A research experiment designed to answer this mysterious question evaluated newborn mice to see if they could provide clues to explain why there is a difference between strokes in baby boys and baby girls.

It turned out that the newborn male mice had much stronger biological reactions to strokes, including severe inflammation. The inflammatory response to the strokes produced toxins in mice’s brain tissue that made the size and severity of the strokes much worse for the male baby mice than for the female baby mice.

The research scientists who carried out the experiment suggested that baby boys probably have a similar reaction to the ischemia produced by a stroke as the male baby mice- and that this severe inflammatory reaction makes strokes much worse for infant boys than for infant girls. This may explain the gender difference in humans when it comes to the higher risk of neonatal strokes in boys than in girls.


What does this mean for parents and teachers?

A neonatal stroke that occurs in the first few months of life impacts the developing brain. Children who have had neonatal stroke may need special evaluations and intervention in order to maximize progress throughout life. Parents of infants who have had a stroke face a number of challenges, including the possibility of the child developing epilepsy. Learn more about how to deal with these challenges here.



The best prevention against neonatal stroke is a healthy pregnancy. This includes the mother’s best attempts to avoid drugs, cigarettes, extreme stress, trauma and infections.

Good prenatal care is also an important preventative measure against neonatal stroke because it can help in early detection of problems that increase the risk of stroke, such as inborn heart defects in the growing fetus. Often, when defects are spotted before or shortly after birth, they can be effectively corrected to improve the child’s overall health.


Sexually dimorphic outcomes and inflammatory responses in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, Mehwish A Mirza, Rodney Ritzel, Yan Xu, Louise D McCullough, and Fudong Liu, Journal of Neuroinflammation, February 2015

 Nighttime delivery and risk of neonatal encephalopathy, Wu YW,Pham TN,Danielsen B,Towner D,Smith L,Johnston SC, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, January 2011

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