When trying to conceive, it can be hard not to let your imagination run wild with what your hypothetical child might be like. Will they inherit your eyes? Your partner's love of reading? Whose hair colour will they get? It’s only natural to speculate, even when it comes to the child's sex (which refers to the biological aspects of an individual as determined by their anatomy – although, as we all know, the sex you're assigned at birth doesn't always match your gender identity).
But instead of wondering, what if you could choose the sex of your baby yourself? For many, it's an enticing prospect – and the reason why The Babydust Method, created by microbiologist Kathryn Taylor, has been steadily growing in popularity for the past (at least seven) years.
The method claims you can predetermine the sex of your child by following a simple sex schedule, and the technique now boasts a Facebook forum of over 55,000 dedicated fans, and has spawned a highly-rated book, The Babydust Method: A Guide to Conceiving a Girl or a Boy, first published in 2016.
If you're reading this, hopefully you'll already know how babies are made – it's a classic sperm-meets-egg story – but to recap: when an egg becomes fertilised, the sex of the baby is determined by whether or not it's fertilised by a sperm containing an X or a Y chromosome.
It's a tale as old as time and one that Taylor was fascinated by, and in particular, she says, with discovering what variables affected whether or not an X or Y sperm would meet an egg (determining the child's sex at birth).
After reading the Shettles Method (another form of conception manipulation) and a study by Léonie McSweeney on pre-selecting the sex of a baby, Taylor explains to Cosmopolitan that she was inspired to do more research.
"It was so interesting, but I realised that the instructions were a little limited," she says. "So I set about researching it myself." After having a pre-planned boy and pre-planned girl, Taylor says friends and family began to ask her for advice. "I started helping them and when they had success, I began working on my book."
Here's everything else you need to know about the Babydust Method:
What is the Babydust Method?
The Babydust Method works by having women chart their luteinising hormone (the hormone that triggers ovulation) twice a day for at least twelve weeks before trying to conceive. Those hormones are then charted using the Babydust Method ovulation kits.
Put simply, the method suggests that having sex two to three days before ovulation will conceive a girl, whereas having sex as close to ovulation as possible will lead to conceiving a boy.
With its many members, the Babydust Facebook group dedicated to Taylor’s method even has its own language too, with members discussing 'gender disappointment' and 'swaying' (a term used to describe selection of sex).
"Our girl sway worked! So thankful we found this method to complete our family after two boys," one post reads. "I still can't wrap my mind around this method, but this is how we got our little boy!" says another. "Don't give up mamas, our family is complete and I couldn't ask for more."
Does the Babydust Method work?
While Taylor highlights that her method is not foolproof, she claims its success rate is still pretty high. "I would say we're at around 87% success rate," Taylor estimates. "We haven't done a clinical trial, so it can be tough to quantify, but you can see in the group that many share their highs and lows of the method."
The wider medical community is slightly more sceptical, however. Dr Sarah Welsh, co-founder of Hanx explains, "From a medical perspective we wouldn’t recommend [the method], there are so many factors at play. The odds are generally 50/50, it's just a case of which sperm arrives at an egg first. And, without a clinical trial, it's almost impossible to confirm the accuracy of these 'sex-selecting' methods."
As well as criticism from the medical community, there are ethical implications when it comes to trying to predetermine the sex of your child. "In the opening of the book, the first thing I do is address why [the user is] reading it," Taylor explains. "I ask what your expectations are with this child, because essentially, while the method can help you select a sex, gender is an expression. One that your child might not even agree with. It's worth questioning why you want a girl, for instance... what exactly do you want out of this?"
Looking at a few of the posts over in the Facebook group, it's clear that some feel a specific gender will guarantee a better parental bond with a child, or create the 'right' balance within their family unit. "We also allow for gender disappointment in the Facebook group," confirms Taylor. "It's an emotion that a lot of people feel completely isolated by, they have all of these expectations and when they're not met, it's almost a mourning process for them."
The bottom line of it all? You can try all the methods under the sun, but there's still absolutely no guarantee of success, or that a child will grow up feeling comfortable with the sex assigned to them at birth. Their gender (defined as a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes, based on labels of masculinity and femininity, and a personal and internal perception of oneself) could be different. Children aren’t always who or what we might 'imagine' or 'hope' for them to be – and frankly, nor is it fair to place any expectations of that nature on another person, your child or otherwise.
"I dreamed of having a daughter that loved ballet," Taylor says. "You often think of your hypothetical child and picture what they'd be like. But, when you meet your actual child, you'll find that they very much will be their own person."
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