A Dutch university professor has controversially claimed that smoking and taking amphetamines while pregnant would lead to a higher chance of giving birth to a daughter who is lesbian.

Writing in We Are Our Brains, the unfortunately-named neurobiologist Dick Swaab say: ‘Pre birth exposure to both nicotine and amphetamines increases the chance of lesbian daughters.

‘Pregnant women suffering from stress are also more likely to have homosexual children of both genders because their raised level of the stress hormone cortisol affects the production of foetal sex hormones.

He also says that the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay, because the mother’s immune system will develop stronger responses to the male hormones produced by male babies with each pregnancy. This point was illustrated in today’s Sunday Times by pointing out that footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has five older brothers.

In the 1990s, Swaab, who is a professor of neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam and was until 2006 Director of the Dutch Institute for Brain Research, unleashed a storm of protest when he published findings showing that the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals differ. However, that research turned out to be accurate.

Richard Lane, media manager at Stonewall, commented that such scientific findings ‘seem to come along in groups every so often purporting to “prove” the same thing. We’ve yet to be convinced that there’s any real hard evidence behind the studies.’

He points out that the studies at least say that being gay or bisexual is something inherent to an individual, rather than a lifestyle choice, as some opponents of equality continue to suggest. He adds: ‘Our concern with this study is that they might encourage expectant mothers to take up smoking in the hope that they’ll end up with a gay child.’

In the book, Swaab also says that high levels of traffic pollution cause autism in babies; that smoking while pregnant can reduce a child’s intelligence; and that drinking alcohol affects how brain cells grow, reducing intelligence and raising the risk of hyperactivity. He also claims, for example, that clever people are more likely to be atheists and that religious faith arises from the indoctrination of young children’s brains.


Photo of pregnant woman by Big D2112.