Can you choose your baby’s sex?

Is it possible to choose the sex of your next baby using natural, DIY methods? Some people think that they can at least sway the odds, so for couples anxious to balance their families, it could certainly be worth a try. Sex selection using medical intervention is illegal in the UK, but there are many natural, non-invasive changes that couples can make themselves that are thought to tip the odds one way or the other.

Although many people have a desire for a baby of a particular sex, there are others who will raise moral or ethical objections to even the most natural of methods because of the emphasis on gender rather than on having a healthy, loved baby. This is why it is extremely important to find the right information and support, so begin by looking at websites such as Gender Dreaming, InGender and Babycentre. You are not alone, and there is a whole community of like-minded people out there ready to share what worked for them and offer support through the highs, the lows and sometimes the disappointment of trying to balance your family. It is not an easy journey and there are no guarantees. All that any of these techniques can do is try to sway the odds one way or the other: the final decision still rests with Mother Nature.

The science of the sexes

It is the X and Y chromosomes that determine a baby’s sex. When a baby is created, half of their genetic makeup comes from their mother, and half from their father. Women carry two X chromosomes, (XX) and will pass one of these on to their baby. Men carry both an X and a Y chromosome (XY), and one of these will pass to the baby, making the sperm the deciding factor when it comes to baby’s gender. A child with an XX makeup will be a girl, and a child with XY will be a boy. Certain gender sway techniques focus on creating favourable conditions for either the male or female sperm to penetrate the ovum.

The Shettles method

This theory of “choosing” the sex of your baby was developed by Dr Landrum Shettles and first published in 1971. According to Shettles, the male (Y chromosome) sperm swim faster than female (X chromosome) sperm.  Male sperm will reach the egg quicker, but they are less robust and have a shorter lifespan.  Female sperm are stronger and less vulnerable to environmental factors, but they are slower swimmers, meaning that they will take longer to reach the egg. The Shettles method aims to put the correct sperm in the right place to penetrate the egg at the right time when the woman ovulates, increasing the likelihood of having a baby of the preferred gender.

First, the woman needs to chart her cycle for several months in order to pinpoint ovulation as accurately as possible.

To conceive a boy, the couple should have intercourse to coincide with ovulation, so that the egg is in place when the faster-swimming male sperm reach it first.  Deep penetration is recommended, to deposit the more vulnerable male sperm as close as possible to the egg. If the woman has an orgasm, this is said to sway blue, as it makes the environment more alkaline.

To conceive a girl, the couple should have intercourse no later than three days before ovulation, to favour the stronger, slower-swimming female sperm. Shallow penetration sways pink, placing the sperm in an acidic environment.

Because Shettles claims that an acidic environment sways pink and alkaline sways blue, women over the years have used various homemade douches, however today this is not recommended because of the risk of infection.

A great deal of emphasis used to be placed on the Shettles method by couples attempting a gender sway. Today however, experts say that male and female sperm actually swim at the same rate, so the timing of intercourse is irrelevant to gender determination, and a study published in 1995 concluded that timing has no effect whatsoever on the sex of the baby.

Some couples attempting a pink sway still prefer to use a cut-off, stopping intercourse several days before ovulation, but bear in mind that this can make it harder to conceive.

Blue and pink diets

Current gender sway thinking places a lot of emphasis on diet. The theory is that a diet that is low in nutrients, lowers blood sugar and is even weight-reducing could sway pink. This is because whilst male embryos are more vulnerable, females are more likely to survive under difficult conditions, so that the body’s own process of natural selection will favour a pink bundle.

Likewise, a diet that is rich in nutrients, keeps blood sugar levels constant and stabilises (or increases) body weight is thought to sway blue, because it creates an ideal environment for the weaker male embryos to survive. Take a multivitamin designed for conception and pregnancy, never skip breakfast and remember to snack between meals.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and family balancing
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a technique that uses IVF technology to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities. It is legal in the UK for clinics to offer this treatment, especially for known carriers of genetic diseases.

It is possible to use the technology to screen the embryos for gender, however this remains illegal in the UK. The process is legal however, in other countries, for example the United States and northern Cyprus. Certain private clinics in the UK work with overseas partners, so the treatment is split between two locations. This is not illegal because the crucial part takes place overseas.

PGD for sex selection involves a full cycle of IVF; the only difference is that embryos of the preferred gender are put back. All of the drugs, risks, expenses and success rates are the same as regular IVF, and the technology may not be 100% effective.  Always be very careful, do plenty of research and seek independent medical advice if considering treatment.

The theories at a glance:

To conceive a girl  

  • Try to conceive during a new moon.
  • Always take folic acid, but complex multivitamins high in nutrients are thought to sway blue.
  • Try to avoid having an orgasm when trying to conceive, as this may sway blue.
  • Men with lower sperm counts are associated with having baby daughters, so invest in some tight-fitting underwear for your partner.
  • Go for shallow penetration to reduce the number of sperm that will reach the cervix and lower the sperm count at conception.
  • There is a theory that taking antihistamines several hours before intercourse can reduce cervical mucus, which will lower the sperm count as it will be harder for the sperm to reach the egg and fewer will eventually make it. As with all medications, check the dosage and possible side effects, and if the packet carries a warning regarding pregnancy, do not take during the two-week-wait unless directed by your doctor.

To conceive a boy

  • Try to conceive during a full moon.
  • Take a multivitamin that is safe in pregnancy every day.
  • Buy your partner some loose-fitting underwear to raise his sperm count.
  • Go for deep penetration so that the sperm are released as close as possible to the cervix. A higher sperm count at the point of conception is thought to sway blue.
  • Mothers with higher testosterone levels have more baby boys.Having an orgasm when trying to conceive raises levels of testosterone, increases cervical mucus and the muscle spasms encourage the sperm to enter the uterus, maximising sperm count when it matters most.

by Helena, mum to Amalia and Luca

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