Expectant mothers are more likely to miscarry during periods of severe economic austerity, a new study indicates.
The stress suffered by pregnant women when governments cut wages can cause some to lose their babies, researchers at the Britain's Royal Economic Society conference said.
The authors of the report have urged politicians to appreciate that unexpected policy changes may act as "stressors with unintended consequences".
Economists Simona Bejenariu from the University of Gothenburg and Andreea Mitrut of Uppsala University and Uppsala Centre for Labour Studies looked at the impact of Romanian austerity measures.
Reforms announced in May 2010 included a 25pc cut in wages for all public-sector employees and a cut in childcare allowance.
The report's authors analysed all registered births in Romania
over a three-year period. The study compared the outcomes at birth between children in utero at the time of the policy announcement with that of those born in 2009.
It found that fewer boys were born, with a live birth being 4.5pc less likely to be a boy than during normal times. Those males who did survive were found to be "healthier than in normal times".
Ms Bejenariu and Ms Mitrut argue that these findings are consistent with a process of "induced selection" in the womb, suggesting that "significant shock in gestation preponderantly selects against frail male foetuses".
The birth rate in Romania dropped sharply following the financial cuts.
In February 2011, precisely nine months after the changes were made, the number of births in Romania dropped below 15,000 for the first time since 1956. The results of the study coincide with a wave of new welfare reforms being implemented across Europe.
"The effects of the great recession may be more far-reaching than initially thought," the researchers said. "In light of continued austerity measures in Europe, policy-makers should consider that unexpected policy changes may act as sufficiently severe stressors with unexpected consequences."
(© Independent News Service)