“Is it a boy or a girl?” might be one of the most commonly asked questions during a pregnancy. Although a couple’s primary concern is typically having a healthy baby, many will admit that they also have a gender preference. This can especially be true for couples who already have several children all of the same gender. They begin to sift through old wives’ tales, wondering if a scientific approach to gender selection is possible. With these desires in mind, Landrum B. Shettles began his research in the 1960s. His methods are not foolproof, and they have suffered through many scientific debates, but some observations suggest that the proper timing and technique can improve the chances of conceiving a girl or a boy.
The Shettles Method Explores Different Kinds of Sperm
A baby’s gender depends on what kind of sperm fertilizes the egg, and this is where Shettles began his research. If female sperm, carrying an X chromosome, meets the egg the result will be a baby girl. If the male Y chromosome reaches the egg instead, a baby boy will be born. Shettles observed that these two kinds of sperm had characteristics that could help parents choose their baby’s gender.
Male sperm is smaller and faster than its female components. It also struggles with fragility and tends to die off faster. On the other hand, the larger, slower female sperm lives longer – especially under less hospitable conditions. In a race the male sperm will usually win, but in the long run, female sperm will outlive the male. Shettles conclusion was that intercourse aligned closely with ovulation would increase the odds of conceiving a boy, whereas intercourse spaced a few days away from ovulation would often result in having a girl.
Tracking the Menstrual Cycle for Gender Selection
Whether a couple is dreaming of a pink or blue nursery, they will need to learn how to track the woman’s fertility cycle in order to best choose their baby’s gender. The primary observation that needs to be tracked is the woman’s cervical fluid. A typical cycle will begin with several dry days after the menstrual bleeding ends. Eventually, she will begin to notice a gradual build up of cervical fluid. It might start off sticky or cloudy, but as the days progress the fluid will become wetter, thinner and clearer. Most women will see long stretchy strands of cervical fluid as her most fertile days occur. After ovulation the fluid will dry up abruptly.
A woman can easily track these observations in a small pocket calendar. All she needs to do is write down what she sees and number the days, with day one being the first day of her period. She should also note her peak day each month. The peak day is the last day of fertile cervical fluid. Keep in mind that the peak day will not necessarily be the day of the most fluid, it is only the last day. The couple should practice charting cycles for several months before attempting gender selection. If the woman realizes that her cycle is unpredictable from month to month she might consider trying to naturally regulate her cycle through diet, exercise or night lighting .
How to Conceive a Boy
According to Shettles, boys will most likely be conceived as close to ovulation as possible. Those wishing to conceive a boy can enjoy intercourse on the dry days at the beginning of the cycle, but they should abstain as soon as cervical fluid appears until the peak day. The best days for a boy gender selection are the peak day and the day after. Since a woman can’t pinpoint her peak day until it has already passed, she will need to observe her cycle for a few months to ensure she knows her usual pattern. Women with unpredictable cycles might want to only try on the day after her peak.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) might help to conceive a boy. Intercourse should be timed for 12 to 24 hours after receiving a positive OPK. For the most accurate results, purchase an OPK that does not need first morning urine, and test twice a day.
How to Conceive a Girl
The farther away conception occurs from ovulation, the better chance a couple has of conceiving a girl. The couple should partake in intercourse as soon as they see any cervical fluid, but they should be certain to begin abstaining at least two days before they think the peak day will occur. Couples with marginal fertility might need to continue intercourse until one day before peak, with the knowledge that they are decreasing their odds of having a baby girl.
Most OPKs will not be helpful in timing intercourse for a girl unless the couple buys an OPK that also measures estrogen. They should schedule intercourse for days when estrogen is detected, but not the luteinizing hormone.
How Well the Shettles Method Can Choose the Gender of a Baby
According to Shettles himself, this method can help a couple conceive a boy 80 to 90% of the time, and a girl 75 to 80% of the time. However, the New England Journal of Medicine claims that the timing of intercourse cannot determine baby gender either way. If a couple is looking for theories of gender selection, the Shettles method could be worth a try, as long as they are fully aware that the results are not 100% guaranteed. Gender selection could be a fun experiment when used by couples who understand the odds and won’t find themselves heartbroken or resentful if life goes in a different direction than they planned.
Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility. New York, NY: Collins, 2006. ISBN: 0060881909
Wilcox, AJ. “Timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation. Effects on the probability of conception, survival of the pregnancy, and sex of the baby.” The New England Journal of Medicine 333, no. 23 (1995): 1517-21.