How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby by Landrum B. Shettles and David M. Rorvik (2006) — This book has been around in some form or another since 1970, and it’s co-authored by one of the pioneers in in vitro fertilization. It’s written by Rorvik with the late Dr. Shettles (d. 2003) having provided the medical and scientific background. The title says it all: Shettles believed that couples can choose the sex of their babies.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Shettles believed that couples can drastically increase their chances of having one sex or the other, based mostly on when they time intercourse in relation to ovulation, though he cautioned that his method does not guarantee the desired sex. According to Shettles, the Y-sperm (male) are smaller, faster, and more fragile, while the X-sperm (female) are larger, slower, and hardier, so if you want a boy, you should time intercourse for as close to ovulation as possible. This will allow the faster Y-sperm to beat the slower X-sperm to the ovum. If you want a girl, you should have intercourse 2-3 days prior to ovulation. Shettles claimed success rates of 80-85% with the boy method and 75-80% with the girl method, and he believed those rates got a little higher when his method is followed carefully.
The book is well-written and easy to read with instructions that are carefully laid out and easy to follow. The documentation isn’t the best; I’d have preferred that Shettles and Rorvik use proper end notes for their citations. But they do provide the information one would need to consult the scientific backing for their claims.
The book is rather old-fashioned (I don’t think any non-married or working women with “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.” for a title were ever referenced) and the tone is a bit pedantic at times, but judging by the letters published from readers, maybe that’s a necessity given that some of the people wanting to try and implement this method really aren’t that bright. I further found it a bit silly that, in the “letters from readers” section, Shettles and Rorvik spend several paragraphs agonizing about how they didn’t want to print negative feedback, but were going to in order to be fair and balanced, and then they hardly print any negative letters at all. The chapter on baby names struck me as a completely unnecessary afterthought (apparently my current favorite for a girl’s name, Ivy, used to be a boys’ name, though I think naming a boy “Ivy” in 2006 would be disastrous, so yuck.). I also wish that the book had included information on checking cervical position as a fertility sign.
But the real question anyone picking up this book will want to know is: does it work? Well, I can’t say; I haven’t had a baby using this method yet! And even if I do conceive a boy, it could be a coincidence. The book has high ratings at Amazon.com though, and it seems that more than 50% of the people who try this method are satisfied customers. If this were sex selection quackery, I would expect that at least 50% of its customers would be reporting that the method doesn’t work.
Then again, it seems that other scientists do poo-poo this method. From the next book that I’m going to read, The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (2011):
BABY’S SEX: CAN PARENTS CHOOSE?
Is there any way to influence a baby’s sex–increase your odds for a boy or a girl?
The short answer is no. There’s not much the average couple can do to affect a baby’s sex. Countless old wives’ tales suggest that everything from a woman’s diet to sexual position during conception can affect a baby’s sex, but these theories remain unproven. Likewise, researchers have found that timing sex in relation to ovulation–such as having sex days before ovulation to conceive a boy or closer to ovulation to conceive a girl–doesn’t work. (p. 90)
The way I see it is, I’d be perfectly happy with a baby of either sex, and if I don’t do something, I stand a decent chance of having all girls. So it’s not like it could hurt.
For the time being, I’m giving the book 4/5 stars. If I actually do conceive and give birth to a boy, I may bump that up to 4.5/5 stars. It could really use a modern make-over with some information on using FertilityFriend to track ovulation. It was a good book for its time, but times have changed.