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Deciding Baby's Sex

Can diet, timing, and changing body chemistry really determine the sex of your baby?
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

If you're yearning to conceive a baby boy, can it really be as easy as eating breakfast cereal and a potassium-rich diet to tip the scales toward blue booties, as a recent study seems to indicate?

If you want to welcome a bundle of pink, can tweaking your diet in other ways boost the chances?

The recently reported research did find moms-to-be who favored breakfast cereal and a potassium-rich diet delivered more boys than moms who skipped breakfast and took in fewer calories. But experts contacted by WebMD caution that the study simply found an association. There is no cause-and-effect proof that what you eat sways the outcome of conception, gender-wise, they say.

But that doesn't stop people -- everyone from your Grandma to the stranger in your gynecologist's waiting room -- from suggesting a variety of approaches to influence the sex of your unborn child. The list goes far beyond breakfast cereal and potassium-rich foods like bananas.

We asked reproductive experts, obstetricians, and those who promote some of the sex-selection methods to explain and weigh in on the options. 

Breakfast Cereal and Sex Selection

In a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 740 newly pregnant British women recalled what they ate the year before conception. Those who ate breakfast cereals and potassium-rich foods and consumed more total calories daily delivered more boys compared to those who skipped breakfast and ate fewer total calories.

It's not certain whether the calories or the nutrients makes the difference, the researcher says, although the association is one that is seen in other animals, with well-fed mothers giving birth to males and less well-fed mothers delivering females.

Among the evolutionary theories as to why girls or boys are conceived is that parents in good condition favor male offspring or that the availability of resources and other factors affects the sex ratio. One study, for instance, shows that underfed hamsters tend to deliver females while hamsters not restricted on diet do not.

(What do you think about trying to determine the sex of your baby? Talk with others on WebMD's Pregnancy: 1st Trimester message board.)

Low-Tech Methods of Sex Selection

Methods to up the odds of conceiving a boy or a girl are plentiful. If you search the web for "gender selection" you'll get multiple hits to articles, a book called How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby, and several commercial web sites selling gender-preference kits. Many of these approaches suggest one or more of the following techniques:

  • Timing intercourse closer to ovulation for a boy, further away for a girl. The reasoning is that the "girl" sperm (with X chromosomes) are hardier and the "boy" sperm (Y chromosomes) are more fragile, so having intercourse as close as possible to ovulation will give those Y chromosomes that determine maleness a fighting chance of meeting the egg.
  • Making the vaginal environment more hospitable to "girl" or "boy" sperm. Some say this can be done by douching with water and vinegar to make the environment more acidic and girl-friendly and by douching with water and baking soda to make the environment more alkaline and boy-friendly.
  • Adopting various positions during intercourse. For instance, the missionary position is recommended for producing girls; rear-entry for boys.

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