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A friend recently asked for my help. I am not so well versed with matters of the bedroom: I didn’t understand why he would come to me. But I guess his weekly date with this column may have something to do with it. “How can I aim for a son?” he asked.
His question was laced with despair. Well, it is not that his wife is barren, but rather she has thus far only managed to ‘give’ him beauties. I won’t divulge why he felt dissatisfied with girls only. It has something to do with traditions.
But seriously, is it really possible to plan for a baby of particular sex?
“Not at all” says Dr Stephen Mutiso.
On this one, Dr Mutiso, an obstetrician/gynaecologist at Kenyatta National Hospital, can only break hearts. He says: “To date, there is no scientifically proven method documented to increase the chance of conceiving either a boy or girl. Everything you have heard is hearsay and has no medical basis. Indeed, if these methods worked, we would be advising our patients. They just don’t work.”
The medic advises that that no position, timing or concoction can tilt the scales of conception in favour of a particular sex.
Fertilisation of an egg, he says, depends on chance. As such, the sex of a baby is dependent purely on chance.
A million sperms
The process goes through a number of steps involving a sperm (male cell) entering an egg (female cell) to form a zygote which develops into a foetus.
Explaining the process, Mutiso says that a man produces millions of sperms in a single ejaculation. Within this population is a homogenous mixture of Y (male) and X (females) chromosomes. If the Y fertilises the egg, fertilisation results into a baby boy. For an X, a baby girl.
It has been determined that ‘male’ sperms are shorter, swim faster and have relatively short lifespans. ‘Female’ sperms are longer, swim slower and have long lifespans. But even these characteristics don’t really have a bearing into the choice of a boy or girl.
“That mindset has to change,” says the doctor. “A baby is a baby, whether it is a boy or a girl. The truth is, no one – except nature – can control the sex of a baby.”
However tradition puts men under pressure to sire boys. Cultural beliefs have led to women being reprimanded for bearing only girls. This, says Dr Mutiso, is unfair to women.
Men to blame
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Sex is determined by the genetic nature of a sperm – and not the egg. All eggs have the X gene. If they are fertilised by the Y sperm then the baby is a boy. If an X sperm fertilises an egg then the baby automatically is female, meaning it’s actually a man who should get blamed for siring daughters.
The only medical method that comes close to sex choice, adds Mutiso, is In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), where “eggs can be fertilised outside the body and then implanted inside the womb.” This, however, has ethical implications besides being very costly.