If you have your heart set on having a boy or girl, you’ve no doubt scoured the Internet for advice. You can purchase gender “kits,” supplement and vitamin cocktails, information products, and vaginal douches that promise you’ll increase your odds of conceiving a boy or a girl if you use them.
Also known as gender selection or gender swaying, there is a mixture of myth, misinformation, and (very little) science out there. Most advice is harmless, but some can be harmful. For instance, sex selection diets can be downright dangerous, and some false gender swaying methods, such as douching, can decrease the odds of you getting pregnant at all.
There are assisted reproductive technologies that can help you have a girl or a boy. However, these are expensive, come with medical risks, and are still not 100 percent guaranteed. Plus, not all fertility clinics offer sex selection technology without medical need.
In this article, you’ll learn the reasons why a parent may hope to choose the sex of their future child, get an overview of popular “natural” methods on gender swaying, learn about the only research-proven ways to conceive a girl or boy, and the possible ethical dilemmas of preconception sex selection.
Why a Parent May Hope to Have a Boy or a Girl
There are medical and non-medical reasons a parent may want to have a child of a specific sex.
On the medical side, sex-linked genetic diseases may be a concern. For example, hemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy almost always occur in boys.1 If a family has a history of these diseases, they may wish to conceive a girl.
However, most people hoping specifically for a boy or girl want to do so for non-medical reasons.
The most common reason is family balancing. This is when a family already has a child (or many children) of one sex, and hopes the next child will be of the opposite sex. Or, if a couple decides to have two children, and they already have a boy (or girl), they may be more determined that their second child be the other sex.
Research has found that in families with all boys, couples are more likely to increase their originally planned family size, in hopes that the next one will “finally” be a girl.2
Family balancing is usually an immediate family consideration, but it can also be an extended family issue. For example, if a grandparent has only granddaughters, one of their children may hope to give the grandparent a grandson (or vice versa).
Other reasons a person may prefer to have either a boy or girl include:
- Preferring to raise a child of a specific sex: If a couple plans to have only one child, they may strongly prefer that child be a boy (or a girl). Or, a planned single mom, for example, may feel more comfortable raising a girl. A single male or gay male couple having a child with a surrogate may feel more comfortable raising a boy.
- Cultural or religious reasons: Some cultures and beliefs favor one sex over the other. On the other hand, some religions forbid any form of preconception sex selection3.
- Death of a child: If a parent loses a child, they may hope to have another child of the same gender. Alternatively, they may want to have a child of the opposite sex, to try to avoid bad memories associated with their loss.
What Determines the Sex of Your Child
The X and Y-chromosomes determine sex. The egg always carries the X chromosome, while the sperm either contributes an X or Y to the embryo.
If a Y-sperm fertilizes the egg, you get XY—a boy. If an X-sperm fertilizes the egg, you get XX—a girl. (There are genetic diseases where an additional sex chromosome is present, like with Klinefelter syndrome (XXY), but those diseases are rare and beyond the scope of this article.)4
It’s assumed that half of the babies born are boys and half are girls, but that isn’t actually true. The current global male-to-female ratio is 105-107 boys for every 100 girls born.5 While this means that slightly more boys are born than girls, this doesn’t necessarily translate into meaning an individual’s odds of having a baby boy are higher than having a girl.
The dynamics of natural sex selection within a family are complicated and can be affected by the length between pregnancies, birth order, exposure to environmental toxins, and other factors (many of which are unknown).