Is It a Boy or a Girl?
hroughout the world, people have relied on folk wisdom to predict the sex of their baby. Here are some examples:
It’s a Girl!
Baby sits on the left side of the womb (Nyinba, Nepal). Mother puts her left foot first crossing the threshold (Bihar, India).
Baby sits low in the belly (Lepchas, Himalayas, and Bedouin tribes).
Mother is grumpy with women (Dinka, Africa).
Fetus moves slow and gentle (Dustin, North Borneo, and Egypt). Mother first feels the baby when she is outside (Serbs, Yugoslavia).
Mother dreams of human skulls (Maori, New Zealand). Mother dreams of a headkerchief (Egypt).
Mother craves spicy foods (Nyinba, Nepal).
Mother’s face has yellow spots (Poland).
Baby "plays in stomach" before sixth month (Nyinba, Nepal).
It’s a Boy!
Baby sits on the right side of the womb (Nyinba, Nepal). Mother puts her right foot first crossing the threshold (Bihar, India).
Baby sits high in the belly (Lepchas, Himalayas, and Bedouin tribes).
Mother is grumpy with men (Dinka, Africa).
Fetus moves fast and rough (Dustin, North Borneo, and Egypt). Mother first feels baby move when at home (Serbs, Yugoslavia).
Mother dreams of huisa feathers (Maori, New Zealand). Mother dreams of a handkerchief (Egypt).
Mother craves bland foods (Nyinba, Nepal).
Mother looks well (Poland).
Baby first "plays in stomach" after sixth month (Nyinba, Nepal).
Source: Dunham et al., 1992.
ported likelihood of conceiving a male is between 50% and 70% and a female is between 50% to 90% (Pozniak, 2002). Another technique involves genetic embryo testing and implantation of only those embryos that are the desired sex (Stein, 2004). However, there are no 100% reliable methods of gender selection at this time.
During the 16th or 17th week of pregnancy, a procedure called amniocentesis (am – nee-oh-sent-TEE-sis) can determine, among other things, the chromosomal sex of the fetus. Some amniotic fluid is extracted from the womb using a needle and is evaluated for chromosomal abnormalities (chromosomal abnormalities can also be checked with other procedures, which we will talk about later in this chapter). An amniocentesis is advised for women who will be 35 or older at the time of delivery because they are at a higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities. This test is also important in the early discovery of sex-linked abnormalities.
However, amniocentesis also raises many moral, sociological, and ethical issues about gender selection. For example, controversy surrounds whether or not parents should be able to choose the gender of a child through selective abortion. Some believe that in these cases, if a couple is carrying a boy and want a girl, they should not be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
There are several places around the world where parents go to extremes to ensure the birth of a male baby. In India, for example, males are valued more than females because of their ability to care for and financially support aging parents. Female offspring, on the other hand, move into a husband’s home after marriage and are unavailable to help care for their parents.
Early testing can now determine fetal gender, and this has led to the practice of female infanticide in India (VanBalen & Inhorn, 2003). India has the lowest ratio of girls to boys in the world, and one study found that 80% of girl babies in rural India were killed within minutes of birth (“India: Girl Children Increasingly Unwanted,” 2002). Poor families often cannot afford to have girls because parents are expected to provide dowries for their daughters at marriage. Others believe that female infanticide is better
than letting a female suffer throughout her life (women are given fewer opportunities and treated as second-class citizens). The following case is from a family in India:
Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child’s short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant’s famished cries, the impoverished village women squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn’s throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “Instead of suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” (A. Jones, 1999)
Many girls in India die in suspicious circumstances. Some are fed dry, unhulled rice that punctures their windpipes; others are smothered with a wet towel or strangled (A. Jones,
In Chapter 3, we discussed the strong preference for males that exists in the People’s Republic of China. Males can continue the family name and are also expected to care for their parents in old age. Even so, in China, government regulations on family size have led to the practice of both female and male infanticide. An excerpt from a publication about infanticide in China describes the horror of this practice:
The Huang family already had three children when the mother became pregnant again. “Family Planning” officials seized the house and ordered the father to kill his newborn son, whom he instead attempted to hide. Officials found the baby and drowned him in a rice paddy, in front of his parents. (Saini, 2002, p. 25)