Busting Baby Gender Myths
Date: July 1, 2010
We really can't help ourselves — the sight of a pregnant woman automatically makes us fast- forward to the gender question. From the moment moms-to-be begin showing signs of that wee baby bump, the congratulations are followed by, "Are you having a boy or girl?"
Occasionally, even the due date takes a back seat to the baby's sex, and perhaps this is out of a desire to envision a complete little person before the birth, as well as a need to begin attributing characteristics, considering names and finding the perfect blue booties or pink layette. And sometimes curiosity about a baby's gender can lead some gender-guessing games.
We asked the experts to weigh in on some old wives' tales and give us the facts.
True or False?
Baby girls' heart rates are faster, and boys' heart rates are slower. False.
"Heartbeats for both sexes can range from 110 to 160 beats per minute in the third trimester," says Dr. Kelly Leggett, the medical director at the Women's Hospital of Greensboro. In fact, anywhere within that range is considered a normal heartbeat for both boys and girls.
"This is the most common (thing) my patients inquire about in the office," says Dr. Aviva Stein, an OB-GYN with Charlotte Obstetrics & Gynecology. "Unfortunately, it has been demonstrated over the last few decades that there is no link between fetal heart rate and Baby's gender. In fact, the fetal heart-rate baseline tends to change throughout the nine months."
Deb O'Connell, a certified nurse midwife and owner of Carrboro Midwifery, agrees with Leggett and Stein. "I think it's definitely a myth."
Carrying a baby high indicates a boy, while carrying low means Baby is a girl. False.
Every woman's body is unique, and the same goes for her abdominal musculature and pelvic inlet (how the baby is sitting in the pelvis). "Your body shape and your musculature determine how the baby is carried," says Leggett.
Also, multiple pregnancies can change musculature, and the more babies a woman has, the more she might protrude, versus carrying high. "Whether you are carrying Baby low or high is based on the position of the baby," says Dr. Melvin Seid, an OB-GYN with Lyndhurst Gynecologic Associates of Winston-Salem. Positions can change throughout the pregnancy, he adds.
"The way you carry your baby has more to do with your parity status (number of previous pregnancies), and the muscle and tone of your uterus," says Stein. So, although it's a fun guessing game, low babies and high babies give clues to a mom's body shape, not the sex of the bump.
Suspending a gold wedding ring from a necklace or string over Mom's belly will predict the baby's sex by the way the ring swings — circular motions for a girl, back and forth for a boy.False.
For years, elderly aunts and grandmothers have played this game. But Leggett says this is "really like picking a lottery number." She adds, "It's all cute and fun, and a nice game to play at your baby shower, but there is absolutely no scientific data to support that claim."
If body hair or nails grow faster during pregnancy, Mom's having a baby boy. If hair and nails grow slower, it's a girl. False.
While pregnant women carry an abundance of beta-HCG (pregnancy hormone), hair and nail growth are not clear indicators of baby's gender, and hormone levels between boy and girl babies are not sufficient enough to make any noticeable changes to Mom's body. "Your age will affect your hair texture more than your pregnancy," says Leggett.
"Normally, a woman loses about 100 hairs a day as part of hair growth's natural cycle," says Stein. "During pregnancy, regardless of baby gender, the hormone estrogen prolongs the pregnant woman's hair-growth phase, resulting in less shedding of hair. After delivery, don't be alarmed if your hair may fall out as you return to the normal growth/resting phases. You should return to your pre-pregnancy hairline within one year of giving birth."
You are more likely to experience severe morning sickness with a baby a girl. False.
Severe morning sickness does not, as some claim, indicate you're carrying a baby girl, says Leggett. "The hormone we attribute nausea to is the beta-HCG, and it does not determine the sex. For example, if you have twins, you have more beta-HCG and could have elevated nausea, but nausea does not tell us what the gender is, regardless of the levels of beta-HCG."
O'Connell agrees there's no science to back up this myth. "I hear this a lot, but the science just isn't there. ... A lot of times, women simply know they feel differently (than from a previous pregnancy), and they know what the sex is."
Mom craves sour and salty foods with a baby boy and sweet foods with a baby girl. False.
False yet again, says Leggett with a laugh. "I wish the science was that easy, but it isn't, so eat whatever sounds good!"
Stein agrees. "Your cravings have more to do with a combination of nutritional and psychological needs."
Testing a pregnant woman's urine with 2 tablespoons of Crystal Drano reveals the sex — brown means a boy; no color change means a girl. False.
This is one of those don't-try-this-at-home warnings! "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that this method works," says Stein. "In addition, there may be dangerous side effects from the fumes that are produced when mixing urine and Drano. I strongly discourage you to try this method. If one still wishes to use this method, by all means, do not handle the mixture yourself."
Really Wanna Know?
The most common way to detect the sex of a baby is with an ultrasound, according to Stein, which generally is more than 90 percent accurate if done after 16 weeks gestation. "A very reliable way to tell the sex of your baby is through genetic testing in the form of a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) between 10-13 weeks gestation or amniocentesis done after 15 weeks," she adds, noting, however, the purpose of these tests is to diagnose a potential health problem, not to identify gender.
A new test, called the Sensage Fetal XY test, can be conducted as early as 11 weeks into the pregnancy, adds Seid. The test involves drawing a sample of the mother's blood and sending it to a lab where fetal cells are isolated. "They look at the fetal DNA and determine the sex of the baby with 95-99 percent accuracy," says Seid, who adds the downside is that the test is expensive ($250-$350). But for mothers who need to know, and when ultrasound results turn out inconclusive, the Sensage Fetal XY test may be a vital option.
"Chromosomal testing is the only definitive way of determining the baby's sex," says O'Connell, who adds moms also should pay close attention to their intuition. "In my experience, if a mom has a good instinct about what she's having, she usually is right. She intuitively knows — nine out of 10 times, the mom is right."