Determining Your Baby’s Gender

Can what you eat or when you have sex affect if it's a boy or a girl?


Before I got pregnant, I was obsessed with having a girl. One friend assured me all I had to do was eat chocolate—lots of it. Another friend heard from a cousin that the missionary position was the way to go. A quick search online revealed other sex-selection methods that seemed equally out there—like restricting sex to nights with a full moon.

In the end, I realized I’d be happy regardless of the outcome and decided to leave it to fate. Of course, if I’d already had a houseful of kids all the same sex, I might have felt differently.

the science of sex selection

“Family balance is probably one of the most common reasons couples explore options for sex selection,” says Stephanie Curran, a registered traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and clinical director of the Elements of Health Centre in Victoria.

The only reliable way to influence a baby’s sex is through medical means, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This procedure, which adds about $2,000 US to the cost of in-vitro, guarantees the sex, but is normally reserved for couples trying to avoid passing on sex-specific genetic illnesses, such as hemophilia. Medically assisted sex selection for non-medical reasons is banned in Canada under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act because of the ethical questions surrounding sex discrimination. “I had one patient who had four boys and just really wanted a girl,” Curran says. “She felt strongly enough about it that she went to a clinic in the United States for PGD.”

at-home methods

While there are no studies to support many of the tricks passed down through the ages (sleeping with a wooden spoon under your bed for a girl, or eating only the ends of loaves of bread for a boy), it turns out some of the more unlikely sounding methods rooted in folklore may contain some scientific truth.

In fact, one recent study found that a woman’s diet at the time of conception may influence a baby’s gender. Researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford in England found women who ate breakfast cereal and consumed more calories daily were more likely to have boys than women who skipped breakfast and ate fewer calories. “Around the time of conception, certain environmental situations may favour the survival of either a male or female embryo,” says Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland and author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book (Yale University Press). “The theory is that some selection for males occurs during times of plenty and selection for females occurs during times of scarcity.” But, Greenfield says, these are marginal, statistical differences. “In big populations you may see a trend, but as an individual the chances it will work for you aren’t so great.”

Another popular theory is that boy sperm swim faster and girl sperm live longer, so that the timing of conception may affect a baby’s gender. This is the basis of the Shettles Method, developed by Dr. Landrum Shettles. “There may be some truth to it,” says Dr. Greenfield. “In which case, conception at ovulation may be slightly more likely to produce a boy, while having sex a few days before may be slightly more likely to produce a girl.”

One of Curran’s patients is currently trying to conceive using the Shettles method. “It just seems to cause an enormous amount of stress,” says Curran. “She is trying for a girl by timing sex two to three days before ovulation, but even if you have a 28-day cycle and are testing with ovulation predictor strips, you still can’t possibly know that far ahead when you’re going to ovulate.”

Most experts agree that the best option is to rely on the 50/50 chance guaranteed by Mother Nature. When I eventually did get pregnant and discovered I was having a boy, I was overjoyed — and I wouldn’t trade him for all the little pink booties in the world.

baby gender myths

It’s a girl if:

  • you had severe morning sickness
  • you’re carrying the baby “high”
  • you’re craving sweets

It’s a boy if:

  • no/mild morning sickness
  • you’re carrying the baby “low”
  • you’re craving salty foods


new-baby-ctaThis story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.

Comments are closed.