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15 Completely Bonkers Ways People Used To Try To Control The Gender Of Their Baby

Updated August 18, 2020 943 votes 209 voters 17.5k views15 items

List RulesVote up the zaniest gender-determining methods from history.

For thousands of years, men and women have wanted to control the sex of their babies. Just like there were weird ways to test for pregnancy, there were all kinds of ways to determine the gender of a baby during pregnancy. Kings like Henry VIII wanted sons to ensure their royal lineage, and merchants wanted to avoid too many daughters so they didn't go broke because of rising dowry costs. Not surprisingly, most of these crazy theories about determining gender were about having a boy. 

These methods for how to know the gender of the baby during pregnancy at home used a lot of common objects: bananas, parsley, and bread, for example. But some of the ways people tried to determine gender were pretty crazy, like eating rabbits' unmentionables or even chopping off a man’s right nad. 

All of these home remedies to know the gender of a baby required dedication, from rubbing a woman with goose grease to testing the winds before conception. Some even advised getting it on right before a woman’s period

  • Photo: Mihály Zichy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Hide A Spoon Under The Bed If You Want A Girl

    Most theories about choosing a baby’s sex aim for boys. Throughout much of history, boys were considered more desirable than girls, and they were seen as necessary for the continuation of the royal line. Henry VIII sent Anne Boleyn to the chopping block after she had a daughter – even though the baby went on to become Queen Elizabeth I, one of England's greatest monarchs. 

    But some theories also promote female babies. A woman who wants a daughter should stash a spoon under the bed, but not just any spoon: it has to be wooden. To increase your chances of a girl, you should also put a pink ribbon under the pillow. Perhaps some warring couples checked under the bed before sex to make sure the spoon wouldn't give them the wrong baby. 

  • Photo: Otto von Diemeringen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Aim Your Bed Toward The North Wind If You Want A Boy

    Until the 17th century, many believed that the direction of the wind or even the direction of the bed controlled the baby’s sex. Arrange your bed in a north-south direction to have a boy, recommended the Hebrew Talmud. And the wind theory claimed that a north wind at the moment of conception would guarantee a boy, while a south wind meant a girl. If it was too difficult to make sure the winds were correct, you could always ask a friend to help out. 

  • Photo: Wellcome Images / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

    Boys Only Grow On The Right Side Of The Womb

    Women should lie on their right sides after sex to make sure that the seed implants on the right side of the uterus, according to one 16th-century theory. The uterus had seven chambers: three on the right, three on the left, and one in the middle. Males grew on the right side, while females grew on the left side. And the middle? That meant a hermaphrodite.

    The idea that females grew on the left was related to the Latin term sinestra, which means left but also “unfavorable” or “evil.” Again, most of these theories assumed that female babies were undesirable and even unnatural. 

  • Photo: Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Afternoon Delight Guarantees A Girl; Love By Moonlight Means A Boy

    One 19th-century theory said that the time of day would determine the sex of the baby. Girls were more likely to be conceived in the afternoon, while boys were conceived at night. This theory even warned prospective parents to pay attention to the calendar: girls were conceived on even days of the month, while boys were conceived on odd days. 

    Of course, another theory said that couples who got frisky under a full moon would conceive a girl.