“When I was pregnant with my son, my tummy was rounder and it appeared to be lower. I also had bad heartburn throughout my pregnancy. With my daughter, I had severe morning sickness and craved comfort foods and carbohydrates all the time,” says mom of two, Nicola Jones.
Women, like Nicola, have claimed for years that their bodies are accurate gender predictors, and show clear signs of carrying a girl versus a boy. But is there really truth to these claims? Obstetrician and gynaecologist at Netcare Parklane Hospital, Dr Mark Van Der Griendt, doesn’t believe there is enough evidence. “In all my years looking after pregnant women, I’ve never seen definitive evidence to suggest that a woman’s body reacts differently to carrying a girl or boy. In my opinion, it’s a myth – even though I often have moms telling me they’ve picked up more weight when they carry boys versus girls, etc,” says Dr Van Der Friendly.
The body’s immune response
While there may not be many studies on the subject, one small study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity does, in fact showing the sex of a baby is associated with a pregnant woman’s immune response. In the study, researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center followed 80 pregnant women throughout their pregnancies to examine whether they would have varying levels of immune markers called cytokines based on the baby’s gender.
The results showed that the immune cells of the women carrying female foetuses produced more pro-inflammatory cytokines when exposed to bacteria. “This means that women carrying female foetuses had a heightened inflammatory response when their immune system was challenged, compared to those carrying male foetuses,” said Amanda Mitchell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and principal investigator of the study. Higher levels of inflammation can have a negative effect on the body and make a person feel more tired and achy (from joint and muscle pain), as well as exacerbate certain pre-existing health problems such as asthma.
So, how can a pregnant woman keep her inflammation levels in check and support her immune system? Research shows that a healthy diet with moderate daily exercise, lower stress and more sleep can have an overall positive effect on the mind and body, and improve levels of stress and inflammation in the body. Exercise also helps to balance hormone levels, which is vital for a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Besides the body’s level of inflammation, there’s only one other scientifically backed scenario that might be a clue as to whether you’re carrying a boy or girl, and that’s morning sickness.
According to a study published in Lancet, there is some evidence to suggest that women carrying girls tend to experience more severe morning sickness, which could be linked to higher hormonal levels.
Although it’s tempting to read into these signs/symptoms, they’re simply myths when it comes to revealing your baby’s gender:
- Food cravings
- Skin conditions
- How high or low you carry
- Excessive weight gain
- Mood swings
Other ways to accurately predict the sex of your baby (besides an ultrasound between 16 and 20 weeks), is through an amniocentesis (a procedure where the doctor removes a small amount of amniotic fluid from the womb) or through chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or chorionic villus biopsy. This is a test performed during pregnancy to determine if your child is at risk of congenital defects. The spin-off here is that you can tell the sex of your baby as early as eight weeks.
To avoid disappointment, it’s best to wait until you’re around 20 weeks pregnant to get an accurate gender result through an ultrasound, or simply wait and enjoy the excitement of not knowing.