On October 21, a post was made on the official Instagram page of gynecologist Pavel Sotsky about planning the sex of a (boy) child.
According to the post, the gender of the child depends on the type of sperm cell that fertilizes the ovum. Fertilization of an ovum by a sperm cell carrying an X chromosome results in the formation of a female embryo, a sperm cell with a Y chromosome forms a male embryo. “According to one of the theories, sperm cells with different chromosomes have different properties, and knowing them can help create relatively favorable conditions for the conception of a child of a certain sex,” the post states.
Although the post is a reprint of an article published on the doctor’s website in 2014, it has received a significant resonance on social media these days as well. Notably, while the source article mentions how to plan a pregnancy for both boys and girls, the Instagram post only talks about planning of boys.
Fact Investigation Platform studied what theory this is about and how supported it is scientifically.
The Shettles method
The famous gynecologist’s page virtually rephrased the Shettles method developed by the American scientist Landrum in the 1960s and published in the book “How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby.”
According to this theory, male (Y) sperm cells are faster but more fragile than female (X) sperm cells. Furthermore, acidic environments damage the Y sperm making it more likely to conceive a girl. According to this, the sex of the child can be affected by the position of intercourse.
Updated research data in the 6th edition of Shettles’ book showed a 75 percent success rate for couples trying to have a female child and an 80 percent success rate for couples trying to have a male child.
Criticism of the Shettles Method
Although the Shettles Method has gained popularity over the decades, many scientific studies have questioned its effectiveness.
In particular, according to a 2016 research, there is no evidence that intercourse and its timing affect the sex of the fetus.
In addition, a 2020 study showed that (contrary to Shettles’ claims) there is no difference in sperm properties other than DNA content.
Selective abortions in Armenia
Determining the sex of a child in Armenia raises many ethical questions since for many years Armenia has been considered one of the leading countries in the world in terms of the number of sex-selective abortions.
According to the World Health Organization, under natural conditions, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. However, in many countries, including Armenia, this number has been artificially changed due to selective abortions. According to the UN Population Fund in Armenia report on “Prevalence and reasons of sex-selective abortions in Armenia” in 2011, since 1993, significantly higher ratio than the biologically accepted normal sex of newborns was recorded: 110-120 boys for 100 girls. The report notes that this trend poses a potential risk of future demographic imbalances. 2021 data from the statistical committee showed that the situation has changed. In particular, in 2021, 109 boys and 100 girls were born, in 2020 – 110 boys and 100 girls.
Thus, although the theory on determining the sex of the future child, published on the Instagram page of gynecologist Pavel Sotsky, does exist, its effectiveness is questioned by a part of the scientific community, and some of the claims made in the post have been refuted. Besides, such posts raise ethical questions in Armenia where selective abortions and the violation of the sex ratio of newborns are considered major issues.