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Gender Selection - Can You Control the Sex of Your Baby?

Gender Selection - Can You Control the Sex of Your Baby?

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In response to recent DocShop articles about gender prediction and selection, we received dozens of comments from readers who are interested in finding ways to choose the sex of their babies-to-be. Since it's such a popular topic, we've provided a round-up of the most popular gender selection methods used today.

While some of these gender-predicting options have no scientific merit, the gender selection treatments performed by fertility specialists have higher success rates. Here are the 10 most popular sex selection solutions employed by expectant parents:

1) Gender Predicting with Old Wives Tales

Old wives tales are rife with fertility tips for expectant mothers. Some advice from the old wives of past are simply tips to increase fertility and boost a couple's chance of getting pregnant. Others are more specific and include claims that what you eat, which side of the bed you sleep on, and who orgasms first can determine the sex of your baby. Read our feature on gender predicting with old wives tales to see if you can sway the odds of having a boy or girl in your favor.

2) Chinese Pregnancy Calendar and Gender Predictor

The Chinese pregnancy calendar is a lunar conception chart that was found in a royal tomb nearly a millennium ago. It uses the age of the mother at the time the baby is conceived in addition to the month in which the child is conceived to determine whether couples will have a boy or a girl. This astrology-based method of gender prediction is used by mom and dads-to-be around the world. Check out our Chinese pregnancy calendar to find out if a baby boy or girl is in your future.

3) Shettles Method

According to the Shettles method of gender selection, the timing of sex in relation to the start of the woman's ovulation cycle, sexual positions employed, and whether or not the woman orgasms can influence the sex of the baby. The method is based on the belief that X (female)-sperm are slower than Y (male)-sperm but can survive longer in the cervical environment. Because male sperm are faster and smaller, theory holds, they die faster than female sperm.

Thus, if you and your partner want a girl, you should time sex two to three days prior to ovulation so male sperm die before the egg is released. Further, couples should avoid sexual positions that allow for deeper penetration to deny male sperm easy access to the cervix. Lastly, the woman should avoid having an orgasm because it makes the vagina less acidic, which provides a more favorable environment for male sperm. To have a boy, couples should have sex as close to ovulation as possible, employ sexual positions that allow for deep penetration, and the woman should orgasm during intercourse.

However, there is little scientific evidence that the Shettles method works, and some doctors even say its practices can actually hurt a couples chances of getting pregnant.

4) O+12 Timing Method

The O+12 timing method directly contradicts tactics used in the Shettles method and is used to sway couples' odds in favor of having a girl. The method was born after results of a 1984 New Zealand study on the timing of sex relative to the ovulation cycle and the gender of babies were published in a medical journal. The study tracked the number of boys versus girls that were born in the days preceding and following ovulation. An Australian mother of six boys noticed that the only day upon which more girls than boys were born was the day after ovulation started.

After timing intercourse to occur 12 hours after her ovulation cycle began, the Australian mother finally conceived a girl. According to the O+12 method, male ejaculation should not take place for at least seven days before the couple attempts to conceive, and the couple should have sex once eight to 20 hours after the start of the ovulation cycle and abstain from having sex again until the ovulation cycle is complete.

5) Pregnancy Diets that Alter pH Balance

The idea that the pH, or acidity, level of the vagina and cervix can create an environment more favorable to male or female sperm relates to the theory that female sperm are more resilient than their faster, smaller male counterparts. If this holds true, then it makes sense that, through our diet, we can control the level of acidity in our bodies and create a more hospitable environment for the gender of our choice.

Since female sperm are believed to have the ability to survive under harsher conditions, women who want a girl are advised to increase the acidity levels in their bodies by consuming more calcium and magnesium. Women who want a boy should consume more sodium and potassium to lower acidity levels.

6) Gender Selecting Supplements, Herbs, and Vitamins

Supplements and vitamins that claim to boost your chances of having a boy or girl should be bought and used with caution. First, you want to be sure that the ingredients in supplements will not adversely affect the health of yourself or your child in case you become pregnant while taking them. Second, know that the effectiveness of gender selection vitamins and supplements are not scientifically-proven, nor has the FDA approved these pills for pre-pregnancy use.

Most gender predicting supplements on the market work by controlling pH, cervical mucus, or estrogen levels. Each of these factors is believed to have an effect on the survivability of male versus female sperm.

7) At-Home Gender Selection Kits

Do-it-yourself gender selection kits work in a couple of different ways and the companies that manufacture them typically inflate their success rates by using questionable research practices. Experts and fertility specialists warn consumers to be wary of these products as they tend to be costly and mostly ineffective.

Some at-home kits include standard diet and exercise instructions and ovulation tracking devices such as basal body thermometers, charts, and ovulation predictors, in addition to gender selecting douche and nutritional supplements. Another type of at-home kit invites you and your partner to collect a sperm sample that can be shipped to a lab where a sperm sorting method is used to separate the male from the female sperm. The couple can then use the at-home artificial insemination kit to deposit the male or female-influenced sperm into the vagina.

8) The Ericsson Albumin Method of Sperm Sorting

The Ericsson Albumin Method is a sperm sorting technique that follows the theory that male sperm swim faster than female sperm. During the Ericsson sperm sorting process, a semen sample is placed in a test tube filled with increasingly thicker layers of albumin, a sticky protein. After one hour, the top layer of albumin is removed and the remaining solution is allowed to stand. After an additional 30 minutes, the middle portion of albumin is removed.

Based on the swimming speed of male sperm versus female sperm, the bottom layer of albumin should contain the most male sperm, while the top layer of albumin should contain the most female sperm. The preferred gender of sperm is then prepared before the woman is inseminated on her ovulation date using the IUI or ICI procedure.

9) Separating the X from the Y with MicroSort® Sperm Sorting

Like the Ericsson method of gender selection, the MicroSort® sperm sorting system separates the male sperm from the female sperm, and then uses the gender-influenced sperm sample to inseminate the woman. The difference lies in the process used to sort the X-sperm from the Y-sperm.

In the MicroSort® procedure, the male and female sperm are separated using a process called flow cytometry. During flow cytometry, the sperm are dyed with a special solution, and then passed through a laser where the sperm are sorted based on how brightly they light up. Because the female sperm are larger than the male sperm, more of the dye takes to the female sperm, making them glow more brightly.

10) "Designer Babies" and PGD

With the highest success rate - and cost - of all gender selection treatments, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been the subject of controversy due to its ability to potentially predestine not just the sex of babies, but also the physical and behavioral characteristics of an individual. However, most fertility specialists will only perform PGD to help couples avoid having a child with a genetic disorder such as Down's syndrome, or to allow couples to choose the sex of their baby.

The PGD gender selection process is broken down into a series of stages. First, eggs are harvested from the mother and fertilized with the father's sperm using the IVF procedure. Next, the genetic make-up of each embryo is analyzed, allowing fertility specialists to determine which embryos are male and which are female. Finally, only male or female embryos are transferred to the uterus. While PGD gender selection boasts a 100 percent success rate, there is no guarantee that the embryo will implant itself to the uterus and result in a successful pregnancy. Unfortunately, some couples have to undergo the IVF process multiple times before getting pregnant.

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