I know I totally over-use this photo (and my designer tells me that is absolutely not okay), but how can I not when it's so stinking cute?!
Okay, on to the post!
Can I choose the sex of my baby?
Dozens of women ask me this question every single week.
You may have wondered about this, too. Or maybe you have absolutely fretted over it if you already have 2 or 5 children of the same sex and are going for one more baby to see if you can get one of the other.
If you are thinking about this question, you've probably found the work of Dr. Landrum Shettles. The premise of the Shettles Method is that the difference in the size, speed, and heartiness of the X and Y chromosomes means that you are more likely to conceive a girl or boy based on the timing of intercourse in relation to ovulation. According to Shettles, the X chromosome (girl) is heavier and slower, but also heartier; so if you want to have a girl, have sex farther from ovulation (a couple days from ovulation). Conversely, the Y chromosome (boy) is lighter and faster, but also has a shorter period of survival; so if you want to have a boy, have sex closer to ovulation (on the day of ovulation or the day before). Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are a lot of successful cases using the Shettles Method. But it’s important to keep in mind that chance favors a girl 50% of the time and a boy 50% of the time, so, truthfully, it's hard to differentiate chance from success here.
The real answer to the question of whether you can choose the sex of your baby is this: Probably not, but you may be able to tip the odds to be slightly stronger than chance.
☾Science. There are actually very few scientific studies examining the question of how timing of intercourse influences the sex of the baby. Among these studies, the findings are mixed, which means that it’s hard to draw any real conclusion.
Some studies have found no relationship whatsoever between the timing of intercourse and sex of the baby. Other studies have suggested that, if any relationship exists at all, it actual favors girls when timing intercourse closer to ovulation.
One study found that having a shorter follicular phase (the number of days between the first day of your period and the day you ovulate) increases odds of conceiving a boy, whereas having a longer follicular phase increases odds of conceiving a girl. There are two things to keep in mind about this: 1) This is about when you ovulate, which is an entirely different issue from how intercourse is timed around ovulation, and 2) The authors did not replicate this finding in a subsequent study.
From this small body of literature, it is safe to say that there isn’t much evidence that how you time intercourse will affect whether you have a girl or boy. (And if there is any leaning in the data, it is actually the opposite of what the Shettles Method teaches.)
What science does suggest, though, is that there are certain preconceptional conditions (i.e., conditions during the period of time leading up to getting pregnant) that may make your body more hospitable for a girl or a boy. Supplement use, medical interventions to help with conceiving (this is independent of a formal sex selection process, which is not legal in many places), as well as your diet, body fat stores, and hormonal profile may all nudge the sex of your baby in one direction versus another.
For example, women who are taking a DHEA supplement when they conceive are more likely to conceive a boy. In addition, the ratio of boys conceived through IVF is slightly higher than it is among babies conceived naturally. There are a few exceptions to this. These include when just one sperm is selected and injected directly into the egg. In this case, girls are more likely to be conceived. Also, the specific medium used in the IVF process may skew the balance of girls and boys. Media with higher glucose content seem to favor boys.
If you eat more sugars and salt (and more calories overall), you may increase your odds of having a boy. If you have lower stores of body fat, you may increase your odds of having a girl. (Body fat has a critical balance in the fertility equation: having both too much and too little can make it harder to get pregnant.) If you—and your partner as well—have higher testosterone levels, you may be more likely to conceive a boy. It is unclear whether this translates into women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) being more likely to conceive boys, since a symptom of PCOS is higher androgen levels.
Your diet, fat stores, and hormones matter because natural selection favors boys in plentiful conditions, where they will be able to grow into big, strong, alpha males. Being a big, strong, alpha male may be less relevant to survival and flourishing in today’s society than it was for our caveman ancestors, but, if it isn’t as relevant—and I’m not totally convinced that is true—evolution hasn’t gotten the memo yet.
☾Wisdom. What I love most about all of this is that you can clearly see how wise our bodies and our future babies are! They use our hormones and the nutrients we consume as messengers about the environment, and they ‘make decisions’ accordingly.
Want to see some of these correlations in action?
Here’s a little about my experience conceiving my three babies. (Please remember, experiences are anecdotes, and anecdotes are not scientific data.)
I have a long, athletic, hourglass shape. Although I hardly think of my body fat stores as unremarkable when I am shopping for jeans, my body fat stores do seem to be unremarkable (in a good way) for reproduction. I have enough body fat to support getting pregnant, and I don’t have an overabundance of body fat stores creating challenges for getting or staying pregnant.
When I conceived the first time, I was working out every day. Exercise raises testosterone. It also lowers body fat stores. My body fat was 21%. I wasn’t a big eater, but I ate plenty of veggies, fruits, and protein and some gluten-free grains. So I was getting some sugars (although not refined sugars). I never get much salt because we don’t eat out much, we don’t eat much packaged food, and we use sea salts at home. These tend to be less concentrated than regular table salt.
Baby Number 1 is a boy.❥
When I conceived the second and third time, my body fat was 25%.
When I conceived my second baby, I had been eating almost entirely paleo in the 15 months since my first baby was born. I worked out less than I did before having my first baby, four times per week. My testosterone was naturally lower. I consumed very few sugars and, as always, little salt.
Baby Number 2 is a girl.❥
After the birth of my daughter, I ate mostly paleo and intermittently keto. I continued to work out 4 days per week. As I prepared to get pregnant again, I added fruit and gluten-free grains back into my diet. I also increased my workouts in a last effort to lose a few more of those extra 15 pounds (which I couldn’t seem to convince to leave me alone after Baby 1 and again after Baby 2).
We were also pretty clear in our hearts that this baby would be a boy. I can't say for sure that made a difference (and my scientist friends would laugh at me for saying such a thing), but why not? Already having a boy and girl, we weren't attached to having one sex or the other the third time around (and, of course, all you really, really want is a healthy baby at the end of the day). Still, as we were preparing for the third baby, we had the boy's name that my Hubby had come up with in mind. We referred to him so much that it just seemed like he was meant to be part of our family.
And he is.❥ Baby Number 3 is a boy.❥
So in love with these babies.❥
☾Bliss. Even if timing intercourse can’t help you choose the sex of your baby, there is one hugely important thing to remember about timing intercourse.
If you want to get pregnant, you are most likely to get pregnant by having sex on the day of ovulation and the day before. Even better, have sex daily during your 6-day fertile window, including those most powerful days—the day of ovulation and the day prior. (But not if your partner has a low sperm count. In that case, have sex every other day during your 6-day window.)
And don’t forget to stay both excited and peaceful in your heart. I know this is easier said than done, especially if getting pregnant is taking longer than you expected. Stay focused on your goal, but keep that focus gentle, loving, and as joy-filled as possible.
Happy Baby-Making, Ladies!!!❥ Sending you so much love, good wishes, and baby dust!!❥
PS. If you know a Conceiving Mommy who would benefit from this article, please forward it to her.
You can also spread the love, support, and baby bliss by sharing the link with your friends on Facebook and your other social channels. Just click the social link to the left of this post.
PPS. Need some extra love, support, and guidance today? Come on over and join us in my Conceiving Mommy In Bloom Program.
I hold your hand every step of the way—through your preconceptional preparation, figuring out if and when you’re ovulating with certainty, taking the stress and guesswork out of conceiving, preparing your relationship and career for your pregnancy, and everything else you need.