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The findings from an investigation of how the stress of a major 2005 earthquake affected pregnant women in Chile suggest that pregnancy can be impacted by exposure to stress itself rather than the factors that often accompany or cause stress, such as poverty, the researchers said.

The investigators analyzed the birth certificates of all the babies born in Chile between 2004 and 2006, which was more than 200,000 per year. The birth records provided information about the babies and their mothers, including how close the mothers lived to the epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake.

Reporting in the Dec. 8 issue of Human Reproduction, the study authors found that exposure to the earthquake during the third month of pregnancy reduced the ratio of male to female births.

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