Predicting Your Baby's Sex
How well can rings, dreams, or countenance foretell boy or girl? Some people swear by old wives' tales as foolproof methods for pregnancy prognostication.
Grandparents, mothers-in-law, bookstore clerks, the woman in
line behind you at the grocery store -- if you're pregnant, everyone wants to
guess whether you're going to have a boy or a girl. Many of them claim to have
a "foolproof method" to figure out whether you'll be painting the
nursery pink or blue.
"A gas station attendant told me I was having a girl
because my face looked smiley," recalls literature professor Talia
Schaffer, whose first baby, born in May, was indeed a girl. "He said with a
boy, the mother's face looked tired! Someone else also predicted a girl because
I was carrying low. Lots of people told us their guesses, and weirdly enough,
everyone guessed correctly that it was a girl."
Although Schaffer's fortunetellers all proved accurate, that
was probably just luck. In a study published in the journal Birth in
September 1999, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health researchers asked 104
pregnant women to guess their baby's sex, using whatever method they liked,
whether it was hunches, dreams, or rings on a string. The women were right 55%
of the time, or about what you could expect from random guesses.
But just to throw a little confusion into the mix, the study
also found the mothers-to-be who had the highest levels of education (12 years
or more) were far more accurate, predicting their baby's sex correctly 71% of
the time. These women most often based their gender predictions on dreams or
feelings, and those were the ones that proved most prophetic.
They're as old as pregnancy itself, these boy-or-girl
prognostications, and nurses and midwives have heard them all over the years.
Here are a few of the most common -- and the strangest -- old wives' tales:
- Dangling a ring -- usually her wedding ring -- on a string over the
pregnant woman's belly. If it swings back and forth, it's a boy. If it moves in
a circle, it's a girl. "The ring over the belly is a biggie," says Tara
Voto, RN, BSN, a labor and delivery nurse at St. Barnabas Hospital in
Livingston, N.J. "I probably hear that one more than any other."
- The heartbeat theory. "Fetal heart rates range between 110 and
160," explains Patricia Crane, MSN, CNM, director of the nurse-midwifery
service with the University of Michigan Health Systems. "If your baby's
heart rate averages in the 110 to low 130s range, the thought is that it's more
likely a boy, and if it's in the mid 140s to 160 range, it's more likely a
girl. Mid-130s to 140s is unpredictable -- and where a lot of heart rates
A study done in 1993 at the University of Kentucky seemed to prove this theory
right, finding that the fetal heartbeat could be used accurately to predict the
sex of 91% of boys and 74% of girls. But subsequent studies all disagree.
"I also tell my patients that there must be other atmospheric conditions
that affect this because you have a run of babies where this theory tends to
work, and then suddenly you can't get one right to save your life!" Crane
- The "linea nigra" -- the dark line that some women get running from
the pelvic bone, mid-abdomen, to the belly button or as far as the xyphoid
(the bottom-most part of the rib cage in the center or tip of the sternum).
"The theory goes that if the linea nigra runs to the belly button, it's a
girl, and if it goes all the way up to the xyphoid, it's a boy," Crane
- The Drano test. "Apparently if you take old Drano, manufactured
before a particular year in the 1980s, and mix it with the pregnant woman's
urine, it turns brownish if it's a girl or bluish-green for a boy," Crane
says. "How this one got started, I have no idea!" Does it work?
"You got me!"
- If the woman looks prettier during her pregnancy, it's a boy. If you're
having a girl, you tend to lose some of your looks, because she's taking your
beauty," Voto says. What about Schaffer's gas station attendant who told
her just the opposite? "That's why we call them old wives' tales!"
In fact, many of the traditional tales about how to predict
your baby's sex seem to flip-flop depending on who's doing the telling. If
you're carrying low, it means a girl. No, it means a boy. If the "ring
trick" results in a pendulum-like swing, it means a boy. No, a girl.