couples, for a variety of reasons, try to take action to influence
the gender of their baby. Some wish to have a boy or girl for a particular
reason, such as already having a number of children of one sex and
wishing for a variety in the family. Others wish to control the gender
for more serious reasons, such as being aware that they carry a medical
condition that can affect one gender more than the other.
Statistically a woman is slightly more likely to give birth to
a boy, as, in an uninfluenced average population, there are 105
or 106 boys born to every 100 girls, although the infant mortality
rate is slightly higher in boys, so the numbers even out.
It is possible, under medical supervision, to successfully select
of the gender of the baby that is conceived. This is done by test-tube
conception. One cell from the embryo is removed and analysed to
determine the gender of the entire embryo. Once the gender is established,
the doctors can decide whether to plant the embryo.
This is a complicated and expensive process that is only used if
a baby of a particular gender would be in dire danger from a genetic
disorder passed on by one or both of the parents.
There are a variety of 'non medical' methods that couples can use
to try to affect the gender of their unborn child, and while there
can be some quite persuasive anecdotal evidence, none has yet been
proved in scientific studies to be able to influence the gender
of a child, or are able to guarantee the outcome. Any method can
be right about 50% of the time, as this is the law of averages,
but results have to be significantly better than this for the method
to be said to be successful.
Most of the more common sex selection methods rely on the woman
understanding her ovulation cycle, and being able to predict, to
a certain extent, the time that ovulation occurs. There are a variety
of ways of doing this, either by purchasing a predictor kit, or
by charting the basal body temperature.
The theory behind the basal body temperature is that a woman's temperature
will fluctuate around the time of ovulation. It is likely that a
change in cervical mucus will also be noticeable at this time; the
discharge will be clearer, sometimes like raw egg. By observing
both of these changes, along with developing an awareness of the
length of cycle and the way ovulation 'feels', women find that they
are able to understand the way the cycle works.
As every woman's cycle is different, and can show some variations
from month to month it is a good idea to chart the basal body temperature
for a few months before beginning to rely on the findings.
Once an awareness of the ovulation cycle has been established,
there are a variety of methods that can be tried. These methods
rely on the couple trying to conceive at certain times of the month,
depending on the time of ovulation. The theories are based on the
idea that conditions in the womb or the nature of the sperm are
more favourable to producing embryos of one gender or another.
In one method, the science behind the theory is that Y-chromosome-bearing
sperm - the ones that create boys, move more quickly than X-chromosome-bearing
sperm - the ones that create girls, but don't live as long. If this
is the case, it is argued that if conception is achieved near to
ovulation, a Y-chromosome is more likely to fertilise the egg, and
a boy be born. If conception occurs a while before ovulation, usually
around 2 to 4 days before, then an X-chromosome is more likely to
reach the egg, and produce a girl.
Another technique advises the opposite action. It is suggested
that there are biochemical changes that occur in a woman's body
during her cycle. It is thought that the environment in the womb
in the early part of the cycle may be more supportive to a Y-chromosome-bearing
sperm. If a boy is desired, conception should be attempted four
to six days before the basal body temperature goes up. Because of
these conditions, it is recommended that couples wishing to have
a girl abstain from sex until two or three days before ovulation.
There is another method of sex selection that suggests that women
control the type of food they eat in the time leading up to conception.
The theory is based on the idea that there are 4 mineral salts in
the body that can affect the way an egg is fertilised; calcium,
magnesium, sodium and potassium. If a girl is desired, calcium and
magnesium should be high in the woman's diet, so milk should be
drunk in quite large quantities, and salt and potassium-rich foods
should be avoided. If a boy is desired sodium and potassium should
be high, so salty foods should be eaten, and milk, and milk products,
should be avoided. Women hoping for a girl should also avoid drinking
tea, coffee and alcohol, while those hoping for a boy can enjoy
these drinks at will.
There are medical reasons for being cautious when starting this
type of diet restriction, as, for example, a high-salt diet could
be dangerous to women with a history of high blood pressure. Any
kind of dramatic change of diet could also mean that women do not
receive all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for themselves
or an embryo. These factors need to be taken into consideration
before beginning this type of programme.
Couples who wish to control the gender of their baby often try
one of the firs two methods, and combine it with the method that
relies on the type of food eaten.
There are other less structured ways of influencing the gender of
a child, many of which really fall into the category of 'old wives
tales', although some women have found them to be effective.
If a boy is desired, couples could try making love standing up,
sleeping with the woman on the left of her partner, trying to conceive
on odd days of the month and making love at night. If a girl is
desired, couples could try making love in the missionary position,
preferably in the afternoon and trying to conceive on even days
of the month.
It is also claimed that benefit may be gained by changing the acidity
in the vagina. By douching the area 15 minutes before making love,
the gender of the child should, it is suggested, be affected. If
a girl is desired, the atmosphere needs to be more acid, so a solution
of 1-2 tablespoons of either lemon juice or vinegar and a pint of
water should be used. If a boy is required 5g of bicarbonate of
soda should be added to a pint of water to make the area more alkaline.
While none of these methods have been scientifically proven to
affect the gender of child that a couple conceive, the creators
of the methods, and a great many people who have tried them believe
that they can be effective. They offer to shift the balance of odds
in the favour of a particular gender rather than guaranteeing the
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