How to conceive a boy… How to conceive a girl…
So you’ve got two boys and you’re hoping your third attempt will be a girl.
Or you have two girls and want a boy. Or you have a hereditary, gender-related disease (like Muscular Dystrophy or Haemophilia)? Or maybe you just have a preference. Whatever your reasons for wanting to choose the sex of your baby, you aren’t alone.
The many books, articles, calendars and services available indicate that there are lots of parents and potential parents who would like to influence the sex of their babies. So what can you do to improve your odds? Are any of the many advertised methods really that effective? The upside is that claims of around 80% effectiveness are being cited for some of the non-invasive methods, and anecdotal (but not scientific) evidence confirms this.The downside is that the well known methods often conflict with one another and you have to take a punt as to which method you use. There are plenty of things you can try to improve your odds though, some of which are fairly invasive and expensive (and worth using only if you are desperate or have a genetic problem which passes through a particular sex) and others worth a try even if you only have a mild preference since they can’t hurt. This article presents a summary of the different methods, along with web sites and contact numbers for further information, and a spreadsheet for use in fertility tracking. If you are one of the many people who would like to have some input into whether they have a boy or girl, read on.
The Basics of Reproduction
Generally, Semen contains approximately 50% female and 50% male sperm cells. The sex of a child is determined by the specific sperm cell fertilizing the egg at the time of conception. Sperm carrying an X chromosome results in a female and those carrying a Y chromosome result in a male. Most of the non-invasive methods described below involve making the conception environment more attractive for one or the other type of sperm. There are also methods which use past pregnancies to predict future pregnancies (including date and place of conception), food combining and the medically accepted laboratory methods which involve separating the sperm, staining them with a dye and then excluding the sperm which don’t match the sex you want. A more up to date method available in Australia involves using IVF to differentiate the embryos.
The most well-known method for influencing gender without the use of medical procedures is the Shettles method, described in Landrum, Shettles and Rorvik’s book How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby: The Method Best Supported by Scientific Evidence. The method is based on the premise that men produce two types of sperm, the X (female) and Y (male). Since the Y sperms are smaller and more delicate but faster than X sperms which are bigger, tougher and slower, the system is based on providing an environment which allows one or the other type of sperm to get to the egg first. There are 6 basic recommendations:
- (A) Timing – the most critical aspect of the Shettles method is to time intercourse. The closer to ovulation you get, the better your chances of having a boy, because ovulation provides the most optimal time for conceiving and male sperm are faster. If you have intercourse about 3 days prior to ovulation you maximise the chances for the slower but tougher female sperm, who are able to survive until the egg appears.
- (B) The pH of the women’s tract is also important. A more alkaline environment is generally favourable to fertility and therefore favours the quicker but more delicate male sperm. For a girl, a douche of very diluted water and vinegar is done just before intercourse (too strong and it will irritate you as well as destroy the female sperm along with the male sperm). For a boy, a douche of very diluted water and baking soda just before intercourse is indicated.
- (C) The closer to the entrance of the vagina, the more acidic a woman’s tract is, therefore intercourse with shallow penetration favours a girl and intercourse with deeper penetration favours a boy.
- (D) Orgasms in females produces a hormone which makes their vaginal tracts more alkaline and therefore more favourable for boys.
- (E) A high sperm count favours boys. To increase sperm count, Shettles recommends that you abstain from intercourse for 3-4 days before ovulation or the day before. Also men should wear boxers rather than tight knickers. To reduce the sperm count, men should take a hot bath just before intercourse and couples should have as much intercourse as possible until 3 days before ovulation.
- (F) Drinking a cup of coffee just prior to intercourse tends to favour a boy. Note that IVF experts in Australia and overseas state that there is little evidence that these methods work. In 1984, the World Health Organization published a study that failed to confirm a gender predominance in relation to the timing of conception. A 1992 New Zealand study also failed to confirm the Shettles method. However, a 1993 study out of Nigeria examining gender preselection using the Billing’s method supports the efficacy of timed intercourse for gender pre-selection. For individual testimony and more information on Shettles, see the following web page.
Dr Jonas Method
The Dr.Eugen Jonas Method was developed in 1956 by a Hungarian doctor using empirical methods (observation). According to this method, under certain circumstances the biochemical environment of the endometrium is subject to certain periodic variations and that these in turn lead to sedimentation of the sperm. The method relies on there being some days in woman’s fertility cycle where she can conceive a boy only and days where only a girl can be conceived, based on things like the birthplace of earlier children, mother’s birthdate and time and other variables. The claim is for 97.8% reliability (in most cases)and the cost is A$250, which gets you a custom made chart of highly fertile days for conceiving the sex of your choice for 1 year. A money back offer is made for gender selection. For more information click here. You can also phone them on 07 55748882 (in Australia).
Sperm Sorting (Cytometric Separation Technology)
In 1970, researchers discovered that the Y-chromosome-bearing sperm could be stained with a dye, making sex selection studies possible. Subsequently, many methods for the separation of X- and Y-chromosome- bearing sperm were tested. A technique developed by Dr. Ronald Ericsson of Gametrics, Ltd is one of the more common medical methods used in the US, where there is a worldwide patent on the process known as MicroSort. The process separates out the x- and Y-chromosome bearing sperm by allowing the sperm to swim through increasingly thicker concentrations of human serum albumin. When the X- or Y- enriched sperm is collected, the physician transfers the sample into the uterus of the wife close to the time of ovulation. Note that this method is not available in Australia due to the difficulty of getting the sperm to the US (where it is patented), and the low rates of effectiveness (only a very small amount of sperm is left after sorting) with using freeze-dried sperm sent to the US and returned to Australia.
PGD (Embryo Selection)
This is the only medical method in use in Australia and it has a high rate of effectiveness. It is a form of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Once the embryo in the “test tube” has reached a multi-cell state, it is possible to tease off one of the cells. This single cell is then tested for the presence or absence of a Y chromosome. Thus, an IVF can be accomplished with all embryos of a single sex. PGD was developed specifically for the identification of embryos with genetic abnormalities but is now also available for general sex selection, which is legal in Australia, although not covered by Medicare unless medically indicated.
Note that it is not legal in countries like the UK and there are many people who feel that there are ethical issues with medical sex selection for family balancing. There are also risks involved such as an increased likelihood of twins, risk of error, and risks associated with the medical procedure itself. About one in three couples will achieve pregnancy in a treatment cycle – if there is at least one suitable embryo to transfer. This method is not cheap. The cost is about $A10,000 per cycle, plus extra consultation costs. For more information about PGD visit Sydney IVF or phone (02) 9229 6486.
The Selnas Birth Calender is based on Dr. Schoun’s theories about the complexities of working out the precise timing necessary for having the right sex. This appears to be similar to Dr Jonas method and provides a 12 month calendar which shows you which your egg will attract either the ” X” or the ” Y” sperm. Cost is A$650, and results are “guaranteed” or your money back. Visit Selnas for more information. Note that the Sydney IVF Centre states that this, along with all other non-medical methods are not scientifically proven.
The old wives tale is that you eat salty, savoury foods for a boy and calcium rich foods for a girl. There is a company called Adnetworld, which promises (but doesn’t guarantee) an 80% chance of success from eating the right food. According to them, the ratio of the minerals Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium are important to having your eggs fertilised by the sperm bearing the appropriate gender characteristics. The diet identifies those foods to provide the correct mineral balance. Cost is $US24.00 and for that you get sample menus and diet sheets. Visit Selnas USA for more information.
If you decide to use one of the non-invasive methods, the key to skewing the odds in favour of a boy or girl is knowing when you ovulate. To do this you need to be able to determine the state of your cervical mucus, using a BBT thermometer with an ovulation kit. The cervical mucus method is easy, and requires no special equipment. You just use your fingers or toilet paper and have a look at the discharge which your body produces. On days when you are not fertile, the mucus is either light or sticky and opaque. As you get closer to ovulation, discharge increases and becomes clear and slippery, with the consistency of raw egg white (due to an increase in estrogen levels). To be sure, you keep a daily record of them. After a few months, a pattern will become clear and you will have a good idea of when you are ovulating and can time intercourse according to the method and gender you want.
To guess at when you’re going to ovulate, you work out when your next period is due to begin and count back 12 to 16 days. This will give you a range of days when you will probably be ovulating (for women with a 28-day cycle, the 14th day is often the one).
Important: Nothing is Foolproof
No method is foolproof, and most of these methods rely on variables which are not always that easy to control and which are not medically endorsed or scientifically validated. Note as well that this article provides only a very basic outline for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. Most people would agree with this, but it bears restating that whatever sex you are trying for, you should be prepared to have either and to love and cherish either a boy or a girl. After all, every child is a miracle, and being able to raise a healthy child of either sex is a privilege and one which all parents should be grateful for. That said, it is still fun to try and if you do have a houseful of boys (as I do) or a houseful of girls, the thought of having one of the other sex may be a compelling one. Good luck!