If you’re hoping for a girl or boy, there are some gender selection techniques that may help you give birth to the baby of your preferred sex. Other methods however, aren’t as likely to work.
Do you have your heart set on getting pregnant with a girl? Or dreams of getting pregnant with a boy? While having a healthy baby is most certainly your top priority, it’s also common to want a baby of one sex or the other, especially if you’ve already had a baby (or two, or three) of the opposite sex.
Whatever you’re hoping for, there are a number of ways — some scientific, others silly — that just might give Mother Nature a nudge and increase your chances of conceiving a boy or a girl.
Here’s what you should know about gender selection techniques — including the high-tech, the low-tech and the no-tech options!
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
If you’re getting an assist from science to conceive in the first place, you may be able to pick the sex of your baby.
With preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), used in conjunction with in-vitro fertilization (IVF), doctors can extract one cell from the rapidly dividing embryo fertilized in the petri dish and examine it to determine sex. Only embryos of the desired sex can be implanted in the mother’s uterus.
That said, using PGD to choose your child’s sex is controversial (not to mention costly). This method was developed to help couples who have gone through genetic testing and know they are carriers of serious genetic disorders — and most fertility centers and medical organizations discourage it if there is no real medical reason to select baby’s sex. (Some genetic disorders, for example, are specifically linked to sex, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which mostly occurs in boys.)
PGD is part of preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), which also includes something called preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). PGS counts the number of chromosomes and tests for chromosomal abnormalities.
Other fertility clinics will let parents choose the sex of their baby if they’ve already had one or more children of the same sex — a term called “family balancing.”
Sperm sorting, also known as the MicroSort Method, is done using flow cytometry, in which the girl-producing sperm (X-sperm) is separated from boy-producing sperm (Y-sperm). Girl-producing sperm contains about 3 percent more DNA than boys’, and when stained with a special fluorescent material in the lab, appears to shine brighter.
The sperm of the desired sex is either inserted into the mom-to-be’s uterus via intrauterine insemination (IUI) or used to fertilize an egg in vitro.
Sperm sorting is less reliable than gender selection with PDG, which is nearly 100 percent accurate in selecting the desired sex.
The Shettles Method
Though there is no medical data whatsoever to back up the efficacy of the so-called Shettles Method, some couples swear by it and others decide to give it a try.
The theory behind the Shettles Method is that girl-producing sperm (called X-sperm) move more slowly but are more resilient and live longer than male-producing sperm (aka Y-sperm), which are faster but have shorter life spans.
What that means, the story goes, is that couples can try having sex to conceive two to three days before the woman is scheduled to ovulate. The thinking is that it might up the chances for the girl X-sperm to be the ones still waiting around in the fallopian tubes by the time the egg drops in a few days later.
If you’re trying for a boy, on the other hand, the theory is that having sex as close as possible to ovulation is the ticket, since the speedy boy Y-sperm could be more likely to reach the egg first.
As long as you realize that your odds of the Shettles Method working are pretty much the same 50-50 chance you have of getting pregnant with a baby girl or a baby boy, it certainly can’t hurt to give it a whirl!
The Whelan Method
The Whelan Method of gender selection is based on similar theories as the Shettles Method, and it’s equally short on medical evidence supporting its effectiveness. But if you go into it realizing there’s absolutely no solid science behind it, there’s no harm in trying it out.
The Whelan Method is based on the idea that biochemical changes in a woman’s body at certain times in her cycle make it more likely that boy Y-sperm will fertilize an egg, while at other times her biochemistry will favor girl X-sperm.
So if they’re hoping for a boy, the theory says, couples can try to have sex four to six days before ovulation. And to conceive a girl, they can hit the sheets either two to three days before ovulation or on the day the woman ovulates.
Aside from the lack of any actual data showing that the Whelan Method works, critics also say having sex four to six days before ovulation is much too far ahead of the release of the egg to get pregnant, since sperm can’t survive that long (usually around three days at most).
That said, if you’re the “ring gender test” type and understand the Whelan Method has about the same odds of determining whether you’ll give birth to a boy or a girl, then by all means, have fun with it!
Gender selection kits
There are a variety of kits available that claim to improve baby sex selection odds. They’re based on altering the conditions around the egg and sperm — by using nutritional supplements and douches — to make the vaginal tract more receptive to either the X- or Y-sperm.
Most experts consider the claims of these gender selection kits to be suspect.
Diet and nutrition
There’s no such thing as a diet that can boost your odds of conceiving a boy or girl, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about it.
Some theories say that eating foods low in sodium and high in calcium can increase your chances of having a girl. Others claim that your diet should include eggs, yogurt and chocolate if you want a girl and red meat, potassium-rich foods like bananas, and salty dishes if you want a boy.
Theories abound about whether certain sex positions can help you conceive a boy or girl — but as you can imagine, there’s no evidence showing that, say, having sex standing up can help you have a boy, or missionary position makes you more likely to have a girl. Same goes for the theories about who has an orgasm first. Still, there’s no harm in trying!
As promising — and unpromising — as some of these methods sound, keep in mind that high-tech gender selection techniques can be expensive, invasive and controversial. As for the low-tech ways of conceiving, they haven’t been shown to be any more successful than just letting nature take its course.