Boy or Girl? Gender-Guessing Myths and Facts


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Photo courtesy of Absfree/Shutterstock.com

We really can't help ourselves; the sight of a pregnant woman automatically makes us fast-forward to one question: boy or girl?

Beware, pregnant moms. From the moment you tell your friends or begin showing signs of a wee baby bump, the congratulations you receive will be uttered in the same sentence as, "Are you having a boy or girl?" Occasionally, even the due date takes a backseat to the baby's sex.

Perhaps this is our desire to envision a complete little person before the birth, a need to begin attributing characteristics, consider names, and find the perfect blue booties or pink layette. Sometimes curiosity about a baby's gender leads to some gender-guessing games that may have moms-to-be wondering: Is there any truth to those old wives' tales?

We asked the experts to weigh in on a few popular myths and provide the facts.

MYTH: Baby girls' heart rates are faster than boys' heart rates.

"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 method my patients inquire about in the office," says Dr. Aviva Stein, an OB-GYN at 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."

MYTH: Carrying your baby high indicates a boy, while carrying low means you're having a girl.

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). According to Leggett, "Your body shape and your musculature determine how the baby is carried."

Multiple pregnancies can change musculature, and the more babies a woman has, the more she might protrude, versus carrying high.

"Whether you are carrying your 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.

"The way that you carry your baby has more to do with your parity status (the number of times you've given birth) and the muscle and tone of your uterus," Stein says.

So, although it's a fun guessing game, low babies and high babies give clues to mom's body shape, not the sex of the baby.

MYTH: Suspending a gold wedding ring (or needle) from a necklace or string over a pregnant 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.

"This is really like picking a lottery number," Leggett says. "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."

So mothers, don't worry about testing your electromagnetic field while pregnant!

MYTH: If your body hair or nails grow faster during your pregnancy, you're having a baby boy. If hair and nails grow slower, you're carrying a girl.

While pregnant women carry an abundance of beta-HCG (pregnancy hormone), hair and nail growth are not clear indicators of a baby's gender. "Your age will affect your hair texture more than your pregnancy," Leggett says. Hormone levels between boy and girl babies are not sufficient to make any noticeable changes to the mother's body.

"Normally, a woman loses about 100 hairs a day as part of hair growth's natural cycle," Stein says. "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."

MYTH: You are more likely to experience severe morning sickness if you are carrying a girl.

Severe morning sickness does not, as some claim, indicate you're carrying a baby girl, Leggett says. "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."

MYTH: Moms crave sour and salty foods with a baby boy and sweet foods with a baby girl.

False yet again, Leggett says 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."

MYTH: Testing a pregnant woman's urine with 2 tablespoons of Crystal Drano will tell you the sex. If the mixture darkens to a brownish color, it's a boy. If it doesn't darken or there is no color change, it's a girl.

We are not advising this test in any way. "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that this method works," Stein says. "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 WANT TO KNOW?

"I hate to burst one's bubble," says Dr. Ann Stein, an OB-GYN, "but the most common way to detect the sex of your baby is with an ultrasound, which, generally speaking, is over 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. The sole purpose of these tests is to diagnose a potential problem with your baby like an anatomical variation, not for gender determination."

Seid mentioned a test called the Sensage Fetal XY test, which can be conducted as early as 11 weeks into the pregnancy. 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 to 99 percent accuracy," Seid says, adding that 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 Deb O'Connell, a midwife based in Carrboro, who adds that moms should also pay close attention to their intuition, which is usually right. "In my experience, if a mom has a good instinct about what she's having, she is usually right. She intuitively knows. Nine out of 10 times, the mom is right."

 

Rebekah Cowell is a Chapel Hill-based freelance writer and mother.

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August 2017

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Raleigh, NC  27607
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Clowns, daredevils, dance groups, contortionists and more highlight this lively circus act. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $19-$35

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PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Clowns, daredevils, dance groups, contortionists and more highlight this lively circus act. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $19-$35

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PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Cost: See website for fees

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Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
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Make music with FIT4MOM Chapel Hill and Erica Berry, Director of Jammin Baby. Enjoy songs and rhymes, movement activities, and instrument play.

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Parent and child explore the gardens together to find the perfect spot to spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Ages 3-5. Program begins at the Bobby G. Wilder...

Cost: $5/nonmembers. Free for members

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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Cost: $18

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Enjoy the spectacle of giant puppets, stilt dancers, shadow puppets and live music. All ages. A pre-show begins at 6:20 p.m.

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Telephone: 919-962-0522
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Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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More information

Orphaned in India, 11-year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his son Colin. The estate's many wonders include a magic...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Kindergarten students entering the traditional school calendar practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

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Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

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Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $30 (tuition + materials)

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The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Cost: $18/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Cost: Free

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Leigh Farm Park
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Cost: Free

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Hillsborough Street
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Raleigh, NC  27607
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Cost: Free

Where:
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201 Davis Grove Circle
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Telephone: 919-234-5193
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Orphaned in India, 11-year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his son Colin. The estate's many wonders include a magic...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


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Enjoy the spectacle of giant puppets, stilt dancers, shadow puppets and live music. All ages. A pre-show begins at 6:20 p.m.

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Telephone: 919-962-0522
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Orphaned in India, 11-year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his son Colin. The estate's many wonders include a magic...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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See Raleigh native Tift Merrit and friends perform and enjoy food trucks, family play and more. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $29-$39. Free for ages 5 and younger; ticket required.

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Education Guide

The 2016-17 Education Guide offers 643 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

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