If you're actively trying to conceive, you'll know that the most important thing is creating a baby who is happy and healthy. But for some of us, no matter how guilty it makes us feel, the gender of the baby is somewhat significant.

Although all our preconceptions go straight out the window the moment we hold our baby for the first time, if you choose to find out the sex of the baby during pregnancy it can be either a joyous occasion or a moment of shock and perhaps even slight disappointment.

There are many different ideas floating around from various origins that suggest there may be ways to influence the gender of your baby, ranging from the mother's age at the time of conception, to the exact phase of the menstrual cycle, and even to the sexual position you choose! But how much of this is truth and how much is simply an old wives tale?

Nature's Decision?

Of course, it is generally accepted that a baby's sex is determined by natural factors alone, specifically by a man's sperm. Sperm either carry X or Y chromosomes. If the egg is fertilized by an X-carrying sperm, you'll have a girl, and you'll have a boy if it's fertilized by a Y-carrying sperm; a 50/50 chance.

Scientific studies have also indicated that genetics play a major role, although the exact details are somewhat lacking. Researchers at Newcastle University studied family trees dating back to the 1600s and concluded that men with brothers are more likely to father sons than men with sisters. Unfortunately the study doesn't report conclusively on why this is the case, although it is suggested that it is an evolutionary trait designed to keep the population of males and females equal. Take a look at your own family history and see if there's any truth to it!

Old Wives Tales?

You've probably heard some suggestions about how to create either girls or boys, you may even have tried a few techniques! So, what are some of the most popular 'myths' and is there any truth to them?

Probably top of the 'most extreme' list a belief thought to originate in France in the 18th Century. It was thought that left testicle contained girl sperm, and right testicle contained boy sperm. As this was during a time when sons were favored over daughters (as they would be able to carry on the family business, for example), some men made the shocking decision to remove their left 'girl producing' testicles! Of course, this didn't work and there is no scientific evidence to even suggest it is a possibility. Realistically, all these men did was reduce their chances of conceiving either sex not only by relying solely on one testicle but also through rather dodgy removal techniques which could easily have severed the tubes between the testicles and the penis.

One of the most well known 'myths' is the Chinese Gender Chart. You may have seen this before as it's quite popular amongst pregnant women. It is claimed that this chart, which tells you the sex of the child you'll conceive based on the mother's age and the conception month, was supposedly discovered in a royal tomb in Beijing, China in the 13th Century and is 99% accurate. Whoever made these claims, however, is anybody's guess! And as for the 99% percent accuracy? Well, there has been some (very limited) research into the chart which all concludes that the chart was right 50% of the time. Who would have guessed?

The Shettles Method, developed in the 1960's, is one of the more scientifically-based gender selection techniques. This method claims that male sperm are faster swimmers than female sperm, but they cannot survive as long. Therefore, it suggests that in order to conceive a girl, you should get down to business a couple of days before ovulation. This allows the female sperm time to get to the egg, and also means the male sperm will likely have died out by the time the egg is released. To conceive a boy, sex should occur as close to ovulation as possible so the male sperm can race to the egg and fertilize it before the female sperm gets a chance.

Unfortunately, research into this method tends to disprove the theory and a 1995 study concluded that the 'timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation has no bearing on the sex of the baby'.

Medical Advances

Medical advances in the 1970's made accurate gender selection possible (whereby a foetus of the preferred gender is artificially implanted), however it is not usually offered in cases where there is not a valid medical reason for the decision.

In a survey taken of women in the United States, both with children and without, 41% reported that they would prefer to choose the gender of their future children. Quite a large percentage, isn't it? So if you'd like to have some say over the sex of your baby, why not try one of the methods above (well, except for the testicle severing, I do not recommend that!)? Just be sure to remember that there is currently no research proving that these techniques are anything other than a bit of fun.