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True or False: You Can Predict Your Baby's Gender by How You Carry the Pregnancy

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mythbuster graphic If you are pregnant and showing, chances are your friends, family, and even strangers are making guesses about whether you are having a girl or a boy. Some of them believe they are more than guessing; they feel they can determine the sex of your baby simply by looking at you.

Women may also refer to their own pregnancies or pregnancies of their friends, and they insist the sex could be easily and accurately determined by how the baby was carried. Generally, people believe that if the baby is high in the womb, you are going to have a girl; if you are carrying low, it is a boy. But others insist that girls are carried low and boys high. Is either true? Not according to researchers, who say that predicting your baby’s sex by how you are carrying the pregnancy is probably no more reliable than flipping a coin.

Evidence for the Health Claim

Predicting gender by how the pregnancy is being carried can be traced back to old English folklore. According to the legend, women carried their daughters high and their sons low. The reason for this, according to the myth, is that boys tend to be more independent and stay low in the abdomen, while girls need more protection and are carried higher. But like many myths, this one has become blurred throughout the years. Many women insist the opposite—that girls tend to be carried lower and boys higher.

Another variant of this classic myth is that if you carry the weight all out front (like a basketball), it will be a boy; if you carry it equally distributed, the baby will be a girl.

Evidence Against the Health Claim

Because the legend had lasted through the centuries, scientists set out to determine if there was any truth to this folklore. A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a study in which they assessed 104 pregnant women who did not know the sex of their babies. Their findings were published in an issue of Birth .

The researchers found that the babies’ gender was not related to the shape of the woman’s abdomen, the severity of morning sickness, or comparisons with previous pregnancies—all common beliefs used to determine the baby’s sex. But interestingly, women with more than 12 years of education correctly predicted the sex of their babies 71% of the time, compared to 43% of the time for less educated women. And the women whose predictions were based on psychological criteria, such as dreams or feelings, were significantly more likely to be correct than those who based their predictions on how they were carrying the baby.

If not the sex of the baby, what does determine how a woman will carry her pregnancy? It depends on a number of factors and will likely be different from pregnancy to pregnancy. The position of the baby, the size and shape of the uterus, and the strength of the abdominal muscles (they tend to lose strength in subsequent pregnancies) can all determine if a pregnancy will be carried, high, low, out front, or all over.

Conclusion

If you want to guess the sex of your baby, using old wives tales and folklore can be fun. Popular beliefs are that babies who are carried low, who have slower heartbeats, and whose mothers are spared from morning sickness are boys. On the other hand, if you’re craving sweets, have soft skin, and are moody most of the time, folklore says it might just be a girl.

But since none of these myths have found scientific support, if you’re looking to plan ahead and deck out your nursery in gender-specific baby gear, you may want to turn to more reliable methods for determining your baby’s gender: ultrasound or amniocentesis . Keep in mind, though, that ultrasound is not 100% accurate, and about 10% of the time the ultrasound technician may not be able to determine the sex for one reason or another (eg, the baby’s position). Also, amniocentesis poses certain risks to your baby, which is why it is usually performed only in higher risk pregnancies.

  • 25th week of pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/duringpregnancy/week25.htm . Updated August 2007. Accessed November 5, 2008.

  • Choosing your baby's sex: The folk wisdom, BabyCenter.com website. Available at: http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/preconception/gettingpregnant/7061.html . Updated July 2006. Accessed November 5, 2008.

  • Fetal sexing by ultrasound in the second trimester: maternal preference and professional ability. Ultrasound Obstet Gunecol . 1996;8:318-321.

  • Perry DF, DiPietro J, Costigan K. Are women carrying “basketballs” really having boys? Testing pregnancy folklore. Birth . 1999;26:172-177.

  • Image Credit: Nucleus Communications, Inc.