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Getting Pregnant

How to Get Pregnant with a Girl or a Boy: Can You Sway the Odds?

how to get pregnant with a boy or girl

There are many reasons why someone may wonder how to get pregnant with a boy or girl. These include:

  • Wanting to balance your family
  • Fulfilling a lifelong dream of having a boy or girl
  • Someone who has lost a child may want another of a different sex to avoid bringing up the trauma of the lost child
  • Someone who is part of a gay couple who may feel more comfortable raising a child of their own sex

Whatever your reason is for wanting a boy or girl, it’s important to realize the risks and benefits of trying the different methods out there. Some methods are based on science and research, and other methods are pseudoscience which will reduce your chances of getting pregnant at best and/or harm your body or pregnancy at worst.

Can you influence the gender of a baby?

The only surefire way to select a certain sex is to do in vitro fertilization (IVF) with preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). You may already know of IVF, which is an assisted reproductive technology most popularly used when dealing with male or female infertility, or using sperm from a sperm donor. 

Now, through PGS, doctors are able to examine the multiple embryos that have developed from the sperm fertilizing the egg. They then can identify those that are male vs female as the sex of an embryo is determined at conception. 

One caveat to the PGS method is there still is a chance that none of the multiple embryos that developed in the IVF round are the desired sex. You may get all female embryos or all male embryos. In that case, you may decide to do another round of IVF but that can get really expensive. 

How to get pregnant with a boy or a girl

Some of the practices that allegedly help you conceive a boy or girl include:

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  • Eating certain diets such as diets high in certain minerals, or high in saturated fats and low in carbohydrates to conceive a boy.
  • Avoiding sex on certain days, such as the Babydust method. This method alleges that having intercourse two to three days before ovulation will conceive a girl, whereas having intercourse as close to ovulation as possible will lead to conceiving a boy. 
  • Trying different sexual positions coupled with avoiding sex on certain days such as in the Shettles method (more on this below).

None of these methods are guaranteed to give you the result you want. Some of the studies these methods were developed on are decades-old, and newer studies have refuted them.

Also, realize that studies measuring these effects are challenging because couples have sex multiple times in a month and it is difficult to determine which sexual intercourse resulted in conception.

The Shettles method: debunked decades later

The Shettles method was developed by a doctor named Landrum Shettles from his work in his lab in the 1950s. His method is outlined below: 

Shettles Method for a girl Shettles Method for a boy
Sperm characteristics X-chromosome sperm are slower and bigger and thrive in an acidic environment Y-chromosome sperm are faster and smaller, die faster, and thrive in an alkaline environment
Sexual position Front-facing (for shallow penetration) Rear-facing (for deeper penetration)
Timing Before ovulation Ovulation day
Vaginal douching Vinegar Baking soda 
Female orgasm No Yes (he thought that the secretions from a woman’s orgasm were alkaline)

While Dr. Shettles claimed that he had 85 percent success, later studies showed that his method was not accurate at all. A 2019 review study showed that there are no differences between sperm carrying Y-chromosomes vs X-chromosomes in terms of speed, size, shape, strength or pH. 

Therefore, sexual position will not affect how fast sperm travels to the egg.

Neither will vaginal douching. But vaginal douching could cause infection that could decrease your chances of getting pregnant and more serious gynecological diseases that could cause infertility. 

How many days before ovulation should you have sex to conceive a girl or a boy?

Some small studies from the 1980s and 1990s found that it was slightly more likely to have a male with sexual intercourse several days before ovulation (as measured by cervical mucus), or a few days after ovulation

These findings are in direct conflict with the Shettles method. Obviously both methods cannot be right.

Larger and more recent studies since then have shown that the timing of sexual intercourse with respect to ovulation does not affect the sex of the baby

What is the best month to conceive a boy or a girl?

As mentioned, recent studies show that the timing of sexual intercourse with respect to ovulation does not affect the sex of the baby

In Italy, a doctor found that in his clinic, women were more likely to give birth to a boy or girl if they conceived in autumn or spring respectively.

While there is accumulating literature that there may be slight differences sex ratios in seasons or at the beginning or end of a season, the exact season differs by where the studies were done.

However, the jury is still out on whether there is an effect of seasonality since these studies are inconsistent in how they measure their results. In addition, other studies say that these effects may actually be muddled by stressful events such as war, terrorism, global warming, and more that happen at a country level.

If you are not urgently wanting to get pregnant, there is no harm in skipping a few months to try to conceive in a specific season. However, if you are on a time crunch, this will only hamper your chances of getting pregnant. 

What should I eat to conceive a girl or a boy?

There are no clear associations between diet and conceiving a girl or boy.

A 2018 study review found that there are not enough studies on this topic to generalize but they did notice a slight trend. Some studies found that a diet high in sodium and potassium was more likely to conceive a male. Some studies in mice (not humans) found that a diet high in saturated fats and low in carbohydrates was significantly more likely to lead to conceiving males, and vice versa.

The key is it may not be worth it to try these diets as it can harm your health or your baby’s health.

What are the chances of conceiving a girl or a boy?

Your chances of conceiving a girl or a boy are about 50:50, like the flip of a coin.

However, the exact sex ratio at birth for males to females is approximately 105:100. This is a little more than expected. Explanations include a strong preference for boys worldwide which results in about 130 million missing girls due to selective abortion, infanticide, or neglect. 

Can you conceive a girl on ovulation day?

As mentioned before, the latest studies show that the timing of sexual intercourse does not affect the sex of the baby. This is contrary to the Babydust method and Shettles method.

Additionally, even if timing did affect the sex of the baby, it is very hard to determine which day is the day of ovulation. Most tools that we have to measure the day of ovulation give you a range of days, rather than the exact day.

What next?

Now that you’ve learned about some of the scientific and pseudoscientific methods to sway your odds, you can decide if they are worth the benefits and risks.

Just keep in mind that most of the information online in chat rooms and Facebook groups on conceiving a child is incorrect. You are safest discussing your options with your doctor.  

View sources

Blight, Alysse, "The Shettles Method of Sex Selection". Embryo Project Encyclopedia (2019-04-03). ISSN: 1940-5030

Rahman, Md Saidur, and Myung-Geol Pang. “New Biological Insights on X and Y Chromosome-Bearing Spermatozoa.” Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology vol. 7 388. 21 Jan. 2020.

Barbara Cottrell. An Updated Review of Evidence to Discourage Douching. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing. 35(2):102–107, MARCH-APRIL 2010.

John T. France, Frederick M. Graham, Leonie Gosling, Philip I. Hair. A prospective study of the preselection of the sex of offspring by timing intercourse relative to ovulation. Fertility and Sterility, Volume 41, Issue 6, 1984, Pages 894-900.

Ronald H. Gray. Natural family planning and sex selection: Fact or fiction? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. December 1991. Volume 165, Issue 6, Part 2, Pages 1982–1984

R H Gray, J L Simpson, A C Bitto, J T Queenan, C Li, R T Kambic, A Perez, P Mena, M Barbato, W Stevenson, V Jennings, Sex ratio associated with timing of insemination and length of the follicular phase in planned and unplanned pregnancies during use of natural family planning., Human Reproduction, Volume 13, Issue 5, May 1998, Pages 1397–1400.

Scarpa Bruno. Bayesian Inference on Predictors of Sex of the Baby. Frontiers in Public Health. 2016. Volume 4, Page 102.

A. Cagnacci, A. Renzi, S. Arangino, C. Alessandrini, A. Volpe, The male disadvantage and the seasonal rhythm of sex ratio at the time of conception, Human Reproduction, Volume 18, Issue 4, April 2003, Pages 885–887.

Lorna West and Victor Grech. A systematic search of the factors that influence the sex ratio at birth. Early Human Development. 2019.

Mahdieh P Kermani and  Mohsen Nematy. Maternal Nutrition and the Child’s Sex: A Review. International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences. 2018. Vol 6. No 4. 394-399.

Cheryl S. Rosenfeld and R. Michael Roberts. Maternal Diet and Other Factors Affecting Offspring Sex Ratio: A Review. Biology of Reproduction, Volume 71, Issue 4, 1 October 2004, Pages 1063–1070.

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser. "Gender Ratio". Published online at 2020.

Sophie G.E. Kedzior, Tina Bianco-Miotto, James Breen, Kerrilyn R. Diener, Martin Donnelley, Kylie R. Dunning, et al. It takes a community to conceive: an analysis of the scope, nature and accuracy of online sources of health information for couples trying to conceive. Reproductive BioMedicine and Society Online. 2019. 9, 48-63.

Sarah Ismail, MPH

Sarah Ismail earned her Master of Public Health degree in Maternal and Child Health from UC Berkeley. She is a data storyteller and public health consultant who consults on reproductive health, education, and environmental projects around the world. Prior to that, she was a UC Berkeley lecturer. When she is not consulting, she enjoys traveling, teaching yoga, and participating in drop-in improv classes.

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