How to Get Pregnant With a Girl

There are no guarantees, but It won't hurt to try

Curious daughter touching stomach of pregnant mother
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You and your partner are trying to conceive, and would really love to have a daughter. Is there any way to make sure you get pregnant with a girl?

No—and yes. For centuries people have tried all sorts of ways to control whether a baby will be a boy or a girl. Most are based on nothing more than old wives' tales or have only a smidgeon of science behind them. The only guaranteed way to have a girl is to go through an expensive and intensive process called preimplantation genetic haplotyping (PGH), which involves in-vitro fertilization and is used primarily to make sure a baby doesn't have serious health problems.

Unless you have concerns about family genetics or inheritable diseases, there's no reason to do PGH even if you desperately want a baby girl. But it won't hurt to try some of the other methods.

Going for a Girl

Whether a child will be a boy or girl is determined at the very moment of conception, and depends on the genetic makeup of the sperm. The way it works is pretty straightforward: Females have two X chromosomes but males have either an X or a Y. If the sperm that fertilizes an egg is an X, the baby will have two X chromosomes and will female.

  • The Shettles Method. This approach for conceiving a girl, developed by an early innovator of in-vitro fertilization, Landrum Shettles, was based on the fact that sperm carrying a Y chromosome swim faster than sperm bearing an X chromosome, but die more quickly. Therefore, the goal when going for a girl is to try to have more X-bearing sperm near the ovum than Y-bearing sperm. To do that, the first step of the Shettles method is to figure out when during her menstrual cycle a woman tends to ovulate. Once that's established, she and her partner are instructed to have sex once a day after her period ends until three days before ovulation, and then stop, theoretically giving the longer-lived X sperm the advantage when the egg is released.
  • The 0-12 Method. A mom of six boys who desperately wanted a girl devised this strategy, which worked for her. The steps of the 0-12 method are: pinpoint when ovulation is likely to happen; have unprotected sex just once, 12 hours afterward; and not have unprotected sex again at all until the woman is no longer fertile. 
  • The Whelan Method. Based on a 1975 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at how the timing of conception affected whether a sample of 1,300 women had a boy or a girl, the Whelan method approach advises couples who want to have a boy to have sex four to six days before ovulation but to wait until two to three days before ovulation if they're trying for a girl.
  • Microsort. This is a slightly more scientific strategy that involves working with a Microsort lab or physician. A semen sample is run through an instrument called a flow cytometer that separates the X sperm from the Y sperm. The X sperm is then placed inside the woman using artificial insemination. Obviously, if a couple was going for a boy, the Y sperm would be inseminated. Microsort will only accept couples who are trying for a boy or girl for "family balancing" or who want to avoid certain genetic diseases.   

Sources:

Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Use of Reproductive Technology for Sex Selection for Nonmedical Reasons. Fertil Steril. 2015 Jun;103(6):1418-22.

Scarpa B. "Bayesian Inference on Predictors of Sex of the Baby." Front Public Health. 2016 May 24;4:102.

Shettles L, Rorvik D. How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby. Harmony. October 2006.

Weiss R, Steinberg J. Guarantee the Sex of Your Baby. Ulysses Press. December 2006.