Government Weighs in on Gender Selection

By Clinical Nurse Specialist Anna Katzman for

Legislation confronts gender-selection pre-pregnancy. Legislation confronts gender-selection pre-pregnancy. legislation confronts gender selection pre-pregnancy

The House of Representatives just voted to not ban abortions that are based on gender: It rejected the "Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act", a bill that would ban physicians from performing abortions based on the gender of a fetus.

Does this vote foster gender discrimination? Encourage "gendercide"? Or, uphold a woman's right to choose? Seriously, I'm not going to address this one! This issue is loaded. And so too, by the way, is your partner's sperm - loaded with X and Y chromosomes, or the genetic material that determines a baby's gender.

Can we control which gender we conceive? Can we increase our odds - naturally - of conceiving the gender that we prefer?

Timing of intercourse and mother's diet might work in our favor, but some skeptics disagree.

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A baby's gender is determined by the resulting combination of sex chromosomes from the mother and the father. A woman's sex cell, the "egg" always contributes an X chromosome while a man's sperm cell can contribute either an X or a Y.

If the mother's egg combines with an X from the father, resulting in an XX combination, a girl is conceived and if the egg combines with a Y from the father, resulting in an XY combination, a boy is conceived.

The "Shettles Method" was conceived in the 1960s and is still used today. This approach to gender selection suggests timing intercourse according to a woman's ovulation. It assumes the Y chromosome is both faster and shorter-lived than the X chromosome.

To conceive a boy, time intercourse as close to ovulation as possible so that the Y chromosome will reach the woman's X chromosome first, (forming an XY) and won't have time to die on the journey.

To conceive a girl, have sex a few days earlier than this, to both give the X chromosome time to reach the woman's X and the Y time to die before reaching it. The Shettles Method also promotes (and really, who wouldn't?) a woman having an orgasm during intercourse, in order to increase the vagina's Ph level to an alkaline level, which is thought to be more hospitable to X chromosomes.

Diet moderation is a more recent consideration with regard to gender selection. A study by Noorlander et al., (December 2010), found that women who ate a diet high in calcium and magnesium while restricting foods high in sodium and potassium were more likely to conceive girls.

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Dr. Shawn A. Tassone, OB/GYN and author of "Hands Off My Belly: The Pregnant Woman's Survival Guide to Myths, Mothers, and Moods" is skeptical of our ability to truly influence the gender of our baby.

"There are too many variables to control", and, "These rules and theories have so many different problems that it makes it so difficult I don't even think people can do it." With regard to timing intercourse according to ovulation, for example, Dr. Tassone states that even with an ovulation predictor kit showing an LH surge, "you still don't ovulate for up to 24 hours after." and concludes, "I have no idea how you know when you're ovulating."

Dr. Tassone discounts the Ph theory, explaining that "Semen (itself) is alkaline", and concluding, "So if the Ph theory were true, "you would always have a female." When asked directly, "Do you think it's possible to conceive a boy or a girl?" Dr. Tassone responded, "No, or else people would be doing it."

Today, having the choice to birth a particular gender stands, as does the overall belief that conceiving a particular gender is possible.

According to the C.I.A.'s World Factbook, the U.S. birth ratio, males to females, is approximately 1.05: 1.

This does not make sense, at least according to Dr. Tassone, who states that from an evolutionary perspective, "The default gender should be female because females are the gender that keeps the population going." Now - on many levels - that's a theory with which I think we can all agree!

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