How to Conceive The Gender You Want

If you're hoping for a girl, or really dreaming of a boy -- here's all you need to know about gender determination.

Alexandra Sowa, M.D., a doctor of internal medicine and a mom, answers one her most frequently asked questions: Can you increase your chances of having either a boy or a girl?

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Every mom-to-be says all she wants is a healthy child, but let's be real: Most people secretly have a gender preference for their next pregnancy. (Hey, no judgments here!) You may have even scoped out a few conception-time tricks to tip the scales one way or another.

Don't go painting the nursery pink or blue, however, until you hear this mom's take. "Unfortunately there's not a proven way to influence gender," says Angela Chaudhari, M.D., a gynecologic surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. She ought to know -- she's tried to game the gender system herself. "For somebody who has two boys, if I knew a way, I would do it!" she says.

Early Bird Gets The Girl?

While there is no precise science to making a boy or girl outside of high-tech gender selection, there is a germ of truth behind the most commonly-touted (but not scientifically proven!) natural method. It involves having intercourse three days before you ovulate and zero intercourse after ovulation to maximize your chances of having a girl. For couples that want a boy, the advice is to have sex only on the day you ovulate.

Before we get into the whys, a quick refresher on how this whole gender determination thing works. Men and women bring two different sets of chromosomes to the baby-making hoedown. Women carry two X chromosomes and men carry both an X and a Y; each contributes one chromosome through the egg and sperm respectively. All eggs are Xs, but sperm can be either X or Y so it's really the guy's contribution that determines gender.

When it comes to down to the main event, certain sperm have a competitive advantage depending on when you have intercourse. "The sperm that has a Y chromosome is a lot smaller and has a lot less genetic material on it so it's lighter and faster than the X-bearing sperm," says Jani Jensen, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The theory is that if you have intercourse right at the time the egg is released, all the fastest sperm that get to the egg will be Y-bearing sperm. So getting busy any earlier means that Y guys will have theoretically burned off their energy and died off by the time the egg was released. Because the female-oriented sperm are naturally hardier (oh, you so knew that was the case!), they would theoretically stick around to fertilize the ovum when it eventually came down the pike.

While that all makes sense in theory, it hasn't been proven to work out that way in real life. More importantly, the method may leave you without a pregnancy at all. "It's more likely that couples may wait too long to have sex and miss ovulation altogether, minimizing their chances of getting pregnant," says Chaudhari. Bottom line: If you really want a boy and aren't in any hurry to conceive, it doesn't hurt to try your luck. Couples who would be happy with either gender should have sex every other day leading up to ovulation and on the day of just to be safe.

Boys Like Burgers?

Your diet may also have a bit of an impact on whether you conceive a son or daughter, but maybe not in the way you suspect. For years, moms whispered that eating lots of fish, veggies, and plenty of dessert will give you a girl, while a diet packed with red meat and salt-laden snacks bestows a boy. Neither plan is detrimental if it's part of a balanced diet, but the exact breakdown hasn't been studied enough to be proven one way or another.

A recent study in the UK did show an association between eating breakfast cereal, plus a diet rich in potassium, and vitamins such as B-12, C and D and giving birth to boys. It's not clear if the morning meal actually caused the boy switch to flip or whether there's a correlation to eating more calories instead. (In the study, moms who had girls generally had an average of 180 fewer calories and 300 fewer milligrams of potassium per day than women who delivered boys.)

Everybody's Got a Theory

Despite total lack of scientific veracity, plenty of other old wives' tales abound. There's the one that a cup of coffee 20 minutes before sex stimulates production of sperm, giving Y-bearing swimmers a head start. Or claims that certain sexual positions make a difference, e.g., shallow forms of intercourse like missionary style create girls and more penetrative positions like standing up or doggy style are better at making boys. Not one of these ideas, however, has ever been proven.

Some methods may even dash your hopes of having a kid altogether. Douching with water and vinegar has been touted as a way to bring about a girl because it makes the vaginal environment more acidic. But experts say douching can interfere with cervical mucus and instead make the vagina hostile to sperm in general.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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