Gender Selection

Being the great niece of world renowned Professor Joseph Stolkowski, whom I never met, is probably more than an irony. It's genetics. Or chromosomes, which we are going to discuss here.

First of all, I should say that I've never read my great uncles's book Garçon ou fille? le choix par sélection préconceptionnelle. Namely because it is in French. And while I can "break my teeth," as we Israelis say, on some French (say, a restaurant menu), a whole book full of French is quite a mouth full. For those who are so inclined to read, I've provided  the link here:

Garçon ou fille? le choix par sélection préconceptionnelle
For those who aren't, suffice to say that my great uncle was the modern "father" of gender prediction. His basic premise is this, eating a special diet rich (or lacking) in certain nutrients (such as calcium or potassium) in the weeks leading up to ovulation (but not to exceed 6 weeks at a time) will lead to having a baby of a particular gender. Apparently he began his studies on animals and later graduated to humans. His odds were pretty good, statistically speaking. My own mother succeeded on her uncle's diet. Other women have, too.

There are plenty of blogs and websites about Prof. Stolkowski's theory, which can be found in English. I'll let the experts in these speak for themselves. After all, they've read the book.  But I'd like to talk about a few other takes on gender selection, one found in what you all know by now is my favorite book:

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health
 which briefly details this method: How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby: Fully revised and updated

And one that comes from another book, more widely known in the religious Jewish community to be certain, but perhaps not much outside:

Babylonian Talmud

Okay, so I'm not sure that this PARTICULAR translation of the Talmud is the BEST one out there or even the most feel free to do your own surfing to those ends. But we'll get to that in a minute.

First let's go back to Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. I love the briefing here about Shettles's method. This method is considered the most scientifically sound method we've got on the issue of gender selection today.

Before I can explain the theory, I must give a bit of background. For many of us, it will be a refresher.

It takes a sperm and an egg to make a baby. Eggs are always "X" chromosome and sperm can be either "X" or "Y" chromosome. If an "X" chromosome sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a girl. If the "Y" chromosome sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a boy. Pretty simple, right?

Well, Shettles has some theories about "X" and "Y" chromosome sperm and how they behave in the woman's body. For example, Shettles's hypothisizes that "Y" chromosome sperm are more delicate and fragile. They don't survive as long, but they are fast. He's getting this from a few factors. We know that "Y" chromosome sperm tend to be slightly smaller than "X" chromosome sperm. We also know that when men are working in jobs that involve toxins, radiation, or are involved in some sorts of sports, such as biking, that can cause trauma to the testicles, they tend to produce more daughters. Overwhelmingly more daughters. So the theory is that when the man's sperm are under stress, the "Y" chromosome are the first to go.

Now, Shettles (and many other fertility professionals) claims that the "X" chromosome sperm live longer in the woman's body. They are heartier and typically slightly larger and tend to move slower through her body.

And this is the basis for his theory.

Shettles hypothesizes that if intercourse (or insemination) is timed further away from ovulation, many of the "Y" chromosome sperm will die off in the days remaining while waiting for the egg to be released, but the "X" chromosome (and heartier) sperm will remain alive longer, waiting to fertilize. Shettles's says that timing intercourse far away from ovulation and then not having intercourse in the immediate days leading up to ovulation should increase the odds of giving birth to a baby girl. Of course, shunning intercourse until the day before or the day of ovulation should produce a boy. This is because there will be no "X" chromosome sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg due to the abstinence that the couple has been practicing and, if the timing is right, the "Y" chromosome sperm will race up (faster than the "X" chromosome sperm) to their destination well ahead of their "X" chromosome counterparts to fertilize the egg first.

That's the theory, anyway.

Again, if you are interested in this theory, you can find more about it here:
How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby: Fully revised and updated
Now if you are interested in trying this theory, you will need to know precisely when you are ovulating. Many women rely on ovulation predictor kids (OPK's) to determine this. Except, OPK's are inherently unreliable for a wide variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this particular post (let me know if you'd like a post on that over at the facebook page). They are even MORE unreliable for women who are on fertility drugs! The most effective way to know when you are ovulating is by using Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), which I will teach you briefly at our first meeting. Or you can just read about it here:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health

FAM will provide you with astonishingly accurate results for all things ovulation related. So that is the good news. Now here's the bad news:

I'm not convinced that this works.

I'm not sure where the flaw is. Maybe the women I've worked with just happen to have husbands with unusually weak "X" chromosome sperm or mind-blowingly strong "Y" chromosome sperm, but I doubt it. All I know is that we can accurately time ovulation and intercourse (it's easier to time a boy than a girl, by the way, but again, I'll save that for another post if there's interest) but get the opposite gender baby than we were expecting. Of course, I've never worked with a mother who wasn't thrilled to have a baby in the first place. But I could see a mother who's heart was set on one gender becoming mighty disappointed in not getting the perfectly timed gender of her choice. So I always let women know that I'm happy to help them with the timing, but I cannot guarantee the results. If you are going to be trying for a specific gendered baby using this method, be prepared to get the opposite. If that isn't a risk you are willing to take, speak with your doctor about sperm selection. Their odds aren't 100% either and the interventions will be plentiful, but that's on their heads...not mine.

From all of the theories out there, including those about having intercourse on a full or half moon, my personal favorite is simple and for religious Jews, it should be of a particular interest. And that is this:

"if the woman seeds first, the baby will be a boy.
if the man seeds first the baby will be a girl."

(נידה לא עמוד א)

"Seeding" is taken to mean "climaxing" during intercourse. In other words, if the woman reaches orgasm first, the baby will be a boy and if the man, a girl. I understand that there have been animal studies that confirm this, though I can not find any links (if you can, please share on the facebook group page), but anecdotaly, I would say this this appears to hold some water. I've spoken with a couple of Talmudic scholars about the issue and they both agree that it is quite accurate, one even claims that it has a roughly 80% success rate. If you've used this method, please share your experience here.

In summary, gender is an inaccurate science with no guarantees, but there are options. I'll be happy to further discuss those options with you as we move through the process together.


Translation of Prof. Joseph Stolkowski's Gender Selection diets, provided by his niece Liz Stolkowski Flynn

The Girl Diet (appears to be a "dairy heavy" and "low salt" diet)

Eat: Milk products, apple juice and grape juice ONLY (no other fruit juices), mineral water, boiled fish (discard the water, basically you are trying to get the salt out), eggs... (yolk only), yoghurt, bread and bisquits without salt, green beans, asperagas, carrots, turnups, onions, potato, radish, pear, cucumber, pineapple, apples, mandarins, melon, watermelon, strawberries, CANNED peaches and pears only (discard juice), almond, peanuts, cocoa (not more than 2 teaspoons a day), hazelnuts, sugar, honey, jello, butter (no salt), jam/preserves (particularly strawberry), vegetable oil, pastry, pepper, spices, fine herbs, mustard, beef, veal, chicken, turkey, lamb, liver, non-salted pork, marine fish and mollusks.

Do Not Eat: Coffee, tea, chocolate, soda water, caronated beverages, liquor, beer, cider, salty cheeses, salty fish, artichoke, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, white beans, lentils, beets, dry beans, split peas, bananna, fresh peaches, apricots, cherries, avacado, oranges, dates, prunes, figs, dark/milk chocolate, dried apricots, chestnuts, dried figs, cakes bisquits or other desserts WITH salt, olives, bullion, chips, store bought mayo and vinegarette, ham, bacon, smoked meats, cold cuts/deli meats, salted meats, gelled fish, smoked fish, salted or fried fish, uncooked shellfish
The Boy Diet (appears to be a "salty" and "milk free" one)

Eat: cola, fruit juices, coffee, tea, all meats, fish, bread and bisquits, dry cereal (crunchy), rice and pasta, potato, mushrooms, artichoke, parsley, dry beans, white beans, lentils..., soy beans, legumes, all fruit, bananna, dates, apricots, peaches, cherries, chestnuts, prunes, figs, dark chocolate, dried figs, sugar, honey, desserts without milk, pickles, olives, margerine, vegetable oil, yeast, canned tuna

Don't Eat: Milk/Dairy products, cheeses, milk breads (such as crepes), salad, greenbeans, spinach, milk based sauces, almonds, peanuts, ice cream, desserts with milk, hard or soft cheeses.