The Neuroendocrine System’s Involvement with Sexual Development

Post your response to the following: You specialize in prenatal care and Mary, one of your patients, just discovered she is pregnant. She’s very curious about how the sex of her baby will be determined. Discuss with Mary the neuroendocrine system’s involvement with sexual development.

I would explain it is important to first differentiate between physiological sex, psychological sex, and genetic sex. If the lady has not had the opportunity to take a class like the one that we are taking she would probably question my sanity at that point. I would go on to clarify that the sex of a child is determined through a complex interaction between genetics, sex hormones, and the child’s upbringing. See sex differentiation starts with the 23rd chromosome of the male sex cell, the sperm. If this chromosome contains an X and a Y, then the child will be genetically male. If this chromosome contains an X and an X, then the child will be genetically female. I would then explain that all prenatal fetuses are female by default. In fact, at six weeks the internal and external sex organs are exactly the same in both genetic boys and girls; however, at six weeks the Y chromosome of the male starts to have an effect. From that point on, as a product of the Y chromosome, the brain, as well as the genitalia, becomes masculine as a result of the effect of sex hormones. At that point, it might be beneficial to reiterate that humans are female by default but through the effects of the Y chromosome and sex hormones, the female default is overruled. Lastly, I would tell her to never discount the child’s upbringing as a determinate of psychological sex.

References

Pinel, J.J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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