Can a mother decide whether a baby will be born male or female through careful control of her diet?

  • To talk about a decision of the mother, whether a baby will be born male or female she would need nearly certainty. If I understand the study correctly she may influence the odds a little. Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 9:09
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    Decide is an unfortunate choice of wording. We rarely deal with such certainties. In science, it is always all about significant statistical influences on outcome. Just as when you put on your seat belt, you don't decide that you shan't die from a car crash, you just influence the probability that you will. Change is an even worse choice of wording. Clearly, the sex isn't going to change after conception - I don't even think that's what you had in mind to ask...? Would you consider altering the question to accommodate this? Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 10:54
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    Perhaps a more interesting question (than the current, which can only be answered "no") would be something more along the lines of "Can a mother's pre-conception diet influence the sex of the child?" Or rather, since you've referenced the study making just that assertion, a better question might more down the lines of "How reliable or valid is this study, really?" or "Here's an interesting study: what could be the mechanisms driving this outcome?" (in less generic terms) Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 10:56
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    Steve Irwin thought that changing the temperature of his testicles would affect the gender of his children. I love him, but I wondered if he's more familiar with crocodile biology than human...
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 12:52
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    @userunknown: A classic case where a citation for notability would have helped - we could have gone to the source of the claim to see what was meant. I can see your point that I have changed the strict definition of the question. I hope you will agree that the idea of CHANGING the sex (or even gender!) of a foetus is absurd. If that was really the question, we should close it until there was evidence that anyone believed it. However, I have occasionally heard people talking about diet selecting/influencing the sex of a future child, so I'm confident that is what the author really meant.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


In short: no.

There is, as you point out yourself, some research shows that (pre-conception) diet can be an influence, but nothing more than that. The mother definitely can not decide the gender.

I had a hard time finding research that replicated this result, only links of more news-like sites that refer to the paper you already linked.

From a BBC news article (emphasis mine):

Dr Allan Pacey, an expert in fertility at the University of Sheffield, said there was good evidence that nature had subtle ways of changing the sex ratio of a population in response to a variety of circumstances. However, he said: "I would urge women to not to start starving themselves in order to try influence the sex of their baby. "It has been observed in some animal studies that even small changes in female diet can affect the life long health of the offspring, so it is important that the mother has appropriate nutrition at the time of conception and throughout her pregnancy."

So from this single article alone I would conclude that although there is an influence of certain factors on the sex of the child (food being one of them), there is no way (and certainly no safe way) to decide the sex of your child.

  • The claim that "there is no way (and certainly no safe way) to decide the sex of your child" appears to be false, since you can filter sperm by weight (XX is heavier than XY), and then perform artificial insemination with only the preferred type. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 19:35
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    The context here is still diet, so that sentence is meant as "no way trough diet". Filtering sperm is obviously not a diet.
    – Nanne
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 6:36

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