There was a time when almost everything about your baby was a surprise, at least until you met in the delivery room. But now, "you can select the sex of your baby," says Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., author of Guarantee the Sex of Your Baby. "And there are a couple ways to do it."
Sure, in the deep, dark corners of the Internet, you may have read that putting a spoon under your bed when you're having sex means you'll have a girl or that trying to conceive during a full moon will result in a boy. Well, no. Those are message board myths based on folklore and shaky science, Weiss says. Of course, there are no guarantees - but here are some options that, though not 100 percent certain, are at least more solid than doing a baby dance around your living room.
In Vitro Fertilization
The only truly guaranteed method of choosing your baby's sex is through IVF, says Elizabeth Kennard, M.D., director of the Reproductive and Endocrinology and Infertility division at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. You may think of IVF strictly within the context of infertility, but some women choose to do it for "family balancing" purposes, too.
The process of IVF works like this: You start taking fertility drugs so your ovaries produce multiple eggs (typically, just one egg is released during ovulation). Then the eggs are removed from your body with a thin needle. The eggs are then fertilized with sperm in a petri dish, and then reinserted into your uterus. Your doctor will know what chromosomes each egg contains, so you can choose to be implanted with a certain sex.
This method involves separating male and female sperm from each other. How exactly do you "catch" sperm of a specific sex? A sperm sample is placed in thick fluid. Since male sperm swim faster than female sperm, you can separate out the super swimmers from the slower ones. Then you're inseminated with the sperm that are the sex of your choice. It's less invasive than IVF, but still costs money (prices vary based on where you live, but average around $600) and not every state has a clinic where this procedure is done. Proponents of the method put its success rate around 70 percent, but not all fertility experts agree, as some are skeptical about any methodologies aside from IVF.
This method is about timing when you're having sex, Weiss says. "The theory is that X and Y sperm swim at different speeds," she says. (Again, male sperm are thought to be faster than female sperm.) "So if you have sex close to when you're ovulating, the sperm have to travel farther to find the egg - this is a benefit for the faster swimming sperm." The result? You're more likely to have a boy. If you wanted to have a girl, you'd switch up your baby-making sessions so they aren't as close to when you're ovulating.
The second component to this plan is using your diet to alter the pH levels in your body. It's believed that female sperm can survive in an acidic environment longer than male sperm. So if you wanted to boost your chances of a girl, you'd eat more acidic foods, but if you wanted a boy, you'd eat more alkaline foods.
Believers in this approach peg its success rate at about 80 percent for boys, and a little less for girls. But not all fertility experts give this method a thumbs up, and argue that it's not all that effective.
So, Yes, You Can - But Should You?
There's a lot of stigma around "designer" babies, but the truth is: It's up to you. "Taking charge of the process can be very empowering when it works," Weiss says. You kind of have a win in the parenting column before your kid even arrives.
But, it's important to remember: Going the IVF route is expensive and invasive, and it's not without risk - even if it is small, Kennard says. "We do perform the procedure when requested, but I prefer to reserve complicated expensive medical treatments for preventing major birth defects and disease, or helping a couple who would otherwise not be able to have a biological child."
And it might be tough on you emotionally, too. If your partner isn't on board, it could lead to frustration between the two of you, Weiss says. And, obviously, if it doesn't work, it could be disappointing. "I always try to counsel couples that to have a baby of the sex you prefer is icing on the cake," she says. "There's no 'wrong' sex."
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