Maybe you had an incredibly special relationship with your mom and want to recreate that bond with a daughter on your own. Maybe you’ve always envisioned having a baby boy and can’t shake that image. Or maybe you already have multiple children of one sex and long to experience parenting the other.

Of course, sex and gender aren’t the same, and you can’t truly know your child’s gender identity before or even shortly after birth. But when expectant parents envision their families, it can be really hard to accept that the image in your head won’t necessarily materialize. Sometimes that means wanting a specific number of children, other times it means envisioning a child of a certain sex — and that’s natural.

And if TikTok is any indication, it’s relatively common too. I remember hearing about something called the “Shettles method”, which essentially says that timing intercourse around ovulation can “sway” your odds of conceiving a child of a certain sex. At the time, the theory seemed pretty niche — something I’m pretty sure I only heard about because I was working as a journalist covering reproductive and prenatal health. But now, the method is gaining traction on TikTik, with people documenting their attempts to conceive baby boys or baby girls, as well as testimonials about how the method yielded the desired result for certain creators. 

The method is all about timing all baby-making attempts. Though the method is trending thanks to TikTok, it has actually been around since the ‘60s, when OB/GYN Dr. Landrum Shettles came up with the theory. Dr. Shettles even published a book, Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose detailing his approach. 

What is the Shettles Method, exactly?

Dr. Shettles bases his theory on the observation of sperm and perceived differences between male-producing sperm and female-producing sperm, including variations in the size and shape. 

As for how people can sway their odds of conceiving a child of a specific sex, here’s the most pertinent tip from Dr. Shettles: To conceive a baby boy, couples should concentrate their baby-making attempts to right before ovulation (they’re advised to hold off on sex until the day of ovulation), while people who want to conceive baby girls are advised to “baby dance” in about three days before ovulation, with no sex closer to ovulation. 

The reasoning here, according to Dr. Shettles, is that sperm that produces baby girls (aka gymnosperm) tend to survive longer and swim better in certain environments (which is why he recommends timing sex a few days before ovulation, as Dr. Shettles believes more gymnosperm will survive to fertilize the egg). Sperm that produce male children, on the other hand (aka androsperm) swim faster in the cervix…at least according to the method.

Confusing? Yes. It certainly is — especially because there’s much more to the theory than just timing. You can read more about it here if you want to learn more…but before you expend energy on that, let’s get to the most important question.

Does gender swaying actually work?

In short? “No,” says Staci Tanouye, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN. “There have been many studies disproving all the various hypotheses of the Shettles method.”

Research from 1991 finds reason to disprove this theory, for example. The study’s authors write: “In spite of the empirical findings, natural family planning programs continue to promote natural methods to help couples determine their child's sex by the timing of intercourse.”

Okay, so this method likely won’t work. Is there another one people can implement?

“No. There is no proven way to alter your chances in either direction,” says Dr. Tanouye. 

Of course, some people will swear that they had luck with the method — but is that really the method at work or simply the fact that with every baby you have, you have a 50% chance of getting a certain sex? Clearly, the latter plays a large role.

Yes, going through IVF and having embryos genetically tested allows you to know an embryo’s sex before implantation (though, as people who have been through the process will tell you,  it’s not as simple as “choosing the baby’s sex…but that’s a topic for another day). With that being said, when trying to conceive “on your own” or “the old-fashioned way”? There’s no way to shift your odds of having a baby boy or baby girl. As always, it’s a 50/50 chance.

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Contrary to what TikTok tells you, this one is a myth

Regardless of what TikTok creators say, here’s what Dr. Tanouye has to share about the theory behind the Shettles method. “There are many studies that prove that sperm carrying X vs Y chromosomes are identical in every way except for the X or Y DNA,” she says.

This one is tricky, as the Shettles method was created and endorsed by a doctor — but ultimately, there’s a lot of content regarding this method that falls under that Internet misinformation umbrella, according to Dr. Tanouye.

Of course, when you’re trying to conceive, you already have so much to think about, from potentially changing your diet, to avoiding certain medications, to understanding your cycle patterns. Consider the Shettles Method something you can just leave out of your mental load.

“Misinformation on social media, in general, runs rampant and can be harmful in many ways,” says Dr. Tanouye. “Fertility and trying to conceive can be a very stressful time for some people, and this is just one way to add to that stress. Making someone believe they can influence the sex assigned at the birth of their child or that they could have but didn’t are really just ways to induce stress and guilt over something we have no control over.”

Internet-fueled misinformation is a dangerous thing — though, it should be said, someone seeing content about the Shettles method and trying to implement the method themselves is probably not doing any real harm to their body. As far as Internet myths go, this one carries relatively low stakes….but ultimately, it’s not worth your mental energy, as it isn’t grounded in fact.

Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie-Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.