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Old wives' tales for predicting a baby's gender: Myth or reality?

Reproductive Health
 Seth Mwikali, a 78 year-old midwife in Machakos County narrates how she could use her hands to predict gender. [Rose Mukonyo, Standard]

Pregnancy evokes different emotions in different people.

Some may enjoy the pregnancy journey while others may not. And this depends on how the pregnancy makes them feel, and for men, how it makes their partners behave towards them.

Part of the pregnancy journey is knowing the gender of the baby.

While some may prefer to wait till the delivery day to know their baby’s gender, some prefer to know early hence go for an ultrasound. But there is another group which relies on old wives’ tales to predict their baby’s gender. Some women swear by these old wives’ tales, but many others say they do not work. 

A common game in many online forums for pregnant mums and mums-to-be is that a woman describes her pregnancy symptoms and asks others in the group to try and guess the gender of her baby.

The responses usually differ depending on the other women’s experiences with their pregnancies.

Lets take the case of Jane*. She told the group she had terrible morning sickness, lacked appetite, had craving for sweet things such as ice cream, chocolate, jaggery, and that she was also experiencing fatigue.

The verdict was that she was going to have a baby girl or what is commonly call a ‘pink jet.’

Joyce on the other hand said she had craving for salty foods such as ‘smokie pasua’ with lots of pepper, peppered foods, crisps, but had no morning sickness. The other group members concluded that she was expecting a baby boy -- what they refer to as a blue jet.

This has become the norm in the groups, but one thing is that those predictions are not reliable.

According to Seth Mwikali, a 78-year-old midwife in Machakos County, most of these signs never really point to a particular gender.

In her over 40 years of experience as a midwife, she has come to learn not to depend on these signs.

But she has other ways of predicting a baby’s gender.

“I relied on touching the stomach because most of the time this never lied to me. If the baby was lying on the left side, I would know it is a girl. I would also look at the appearance of her legs. If a baby lay on the right side, with more kicks on the same side, and a swollen right leg, I would know it was a boy,” said Mwikali.

Angelina Kyule, a Community Health Promoter in Mutituni, said she experienced different signs with her four pregnancies. But one obvious thing was the dislike she had for her husband while she was expecting a boy. When she was expecting a girl, she grew fonder of her husband.

“In terms of food and cravings, the only food I craved was ‘githeri’ made with maize and cowpeas, a common delicacy in Ukambani, and it stuck with me through all my pregnancies so I can’t say I craved either sugary or salty foods,” she said.


There are many myths about gender prediction. Some people believe that if a pregnant woman has a bad case of heartburn, prefers sleeping on the left side, has a Linea Nigra (the dark vertical line that appears below the belly button), and frequent morning sickness, she could be carrying a girl.

But if she craves sweet food, soft hands, skin breakouts or acne, a full face, mood swings, high belly with more weight around the waist, it is a baby girl.

For a boy, the belief is that if the pregnant woman has less heartburn, sleeps on the right side, has a linea nigra above the belly button, and has less morning sickness with dry, rough hands.

However, midwives say there is no scientific proof to these beliefs, most symptoms depend on one’s hormones and each pregnancy is different. They also recommend ultrasound which is 70.3 per cent to 98.7 per cent accurate depending on when it is done.

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