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Posted by on January 18, 2012

Gender Conception: Boys Vs. Girls

Now that I am more and more visibly pregnant, people are starting to comment on it. And the one topic that ALWAYS come up – right after “When are you due? / How far along are you?” – is “So are you hoping for a girl this time?”. Because people either see or know that I already have two boys and assume that I am hoping for the other gender!

Now I will admit that I would be thrilled to have a little girl and finally being able to wander over into the pink section and immerse myself in tutus, princesses and dolls! But as a mother of a disabled child I have to say that “healthy baby” is on top of the list, no matter what gender!

Nevertheless, while we were trying to conceive I did some research to see whether there is any definitive information out there on how to influence the gender at conception. I was amazed by the massive amount of tips, tricks and devices that promise to result in the gender of the reader’s choice! Put “How to conceive a boy” into Google and you get about 10,000,000 hits! Some methods are free and some are pricey, but – with the exception gender selected embryo IVF – no method is guaranteed, despite all the glowing testimonials!

So here is a brief overview of all the theories floating around:

The most commonly known method for gender selection is the Shettles method. It’s based on the principle that male sperm are faster, but die quicker, while female sperm are slow, but hang around longer. So therefore – if you can pinpoint your ovulation – you just need to have intercourse up to 2 days before ovulation for a girl and on the day of ovulation, if you want a boy. (While this method is well known, we tried it with our second child and it did not work for us. Many testimonials online state similar failure and some go as far as claiming Shettle’s research was flawed and irreproducible.)

Almost an opposite timing is propagated by the O+12 (pronounced “oh plus twelve”) method, which proposes intercourse about 12 hours after ovulation for a girl. Supposedly discovered by a mother that had six sons before conceiving a girl with this, a small New Zealand study confirmed the findings. However pinpointing ovulation to the hour requires some serious discipline (with basal temperature charting and mucus observation) or a major gadget (like an ovulation monitor) – never mind a partner that can stand by for urgent intercourse!

In addition to these timing methods, you can go a step further an monitor the pH of your vagina – alkaline favors boys, more acidic favors girl sperm. Usually the entrance of the vagina is more acidic, so shallow penetration (”missionary position”) for a girl, while orgasms make the environment more alkaline, thus boy sperm friendly. In order to really tweak your vaginal pH some websites promote a “gender diet” – for girls try acidic foods, high in calcium and magnesium, for boys alkaline foods, high in salt and potassium. Most websites give long lists of specific foods that you are allowed to eat for one or the other, but all have the disclaimer that you should not do this for more than 3 months in order to avoid nutritional deficits.

The newest scientific research actually suggests that the gender is not so much determined by the sperm that gets to the egg first, but by the polarity of the egg at the moment – the ovule membrane has an alternating charge throughout the cycle and attracts or rejects the themselves slightly polarized sperm chromosomes. (You can actually separate male from female sperm by electrolysis.) There are several websites that claim they have done enough research to be able to determine when your egg will charged on a way to attract male or female sperm by the day. For that, they want your age, blood type and date of first period – and A LOT of money. A 6 months gender prediction calendar can cost up to $250 and even though most offer a “money back guarantee” (= send in the birth certificate of the “wrong gender” conceived), that seems more like a money making scheme than sound scientific advice.

Are you confused yet, what to believe? We were! So we decided to give it up to Mother Nature, which – after all – still meant a chance of 50-50. I would love to be able to report here what gender we conceived, however the baby had its legs firmly closed during the last ultrasound and so I will have to endure a couple more weeks of “Do you know what you are having? Are you hoping for a girl?”. I assume we will know the gender at the very latest when it comes out!

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