There's a huge know-it-all on my block who claims she can guess the sex of a pregnant woman's baby "with 100% accuracy" based on "where she's carrying." And she doesn't hesitate to share her prognostications.

It was high time that indications like this were put to the test. While everything about pregnancy is steeped in lore and the unknowable — and I don't except What to Expect from that generalization, either! — there's just too much superstitious wisdom out there for all of it to be true. But is any of it? One (pregnant) writer from New Scientist decided to find out. She goes through various Old Wives' Tales and puts them to the scientific test. Her findings on the Old Wives' Classics:

Morning Sickness = Boy
False. In fact, the opposite is - sometimes - true.

Fast Fetal Heartbeat = Girl:
Inconclusive. Girls' hearts beat faster during labor, but in vitro there's no recorded difference.


Weird Cravings = Boy:
Maybe. You may eat more with a boy, doctors find. The cravings and aversions, however, vary.

Female Intuition = True
Not across the board, of course — even were it infallible, intuition has a bad way of being influenced by external factors and pressures — but in an informal study, apparently 60% of women guessed accurately based on a gut feeling. Then again, the odds aren't bad.

Granted, this article barely scratches the surface of that foot-thick Old Wives' tale compendium. There's also my neighbor's favored "where you're carrying" analysis (in which "Low," which is itself subject to interpretation = boy); mother's face shape ("full" = girl); father's weight gain (poundage = girl); breast changes (larger right boob = boy); pendant-swinging (circling = girl); and...key-picking-up. (Don't ask.)


There are worse times for folk wisdom than when one's going into the unknown — and, for that matter, ancient female intuition. But none of these is really going to help you choose a paint color. I can't even speak to the accuracy of my neighbor's record: after she predicted a girl, a young woman on the block gave birth to twins of both sexes. The predictor is counting this a success. I say she's in on a technicality. All I can tell you with certainty is this: saying, with a gruff accent, "May your first a masculine child," really isn't funny if the pregnant woman hasn't seen The Godfather. And is having a girl.

Bumpology: Can Old Wives' Tales Tell Me My Baby's Sex? [New Scientist]