New test tells gender of baby at eight weeks

Is it a scam?

This test costs in the range of $127 to $135 or so and is touted as being able to detect gender early in pregnancy. It's available in the US at around $30 so is around triple the cost in NZ.

The blurb from the official site states it's: "...THE ONLY affordable, simple-to-use urine test that provides immediate gender results in the privacy and comfort of the home. Within ten minutes, the...test indicates whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. Used as early as six weeks after the first missed period, the Gender Prediction Test bridges the curiosity gap between conception and sonogram."

Figures for accuracy vary, from 82% "real world" through to claims of 90% from "laboratory" testing which apparently means they took 150 women who did the test between 15-19 weeks of pregnancy and perhaps got ultrasound results on gender. Even 90% still would give 1 in 10 false results. I'm unsure what the results would be if they were random with pretty much two choices there, maybe someone better versed in mathematics can help me out.

There are plenty of myths around about how to ensure getting a boy or girl, and many more about how to predict gender. The classic is dangling the wedding ring over a pregnant belly and watching which way it swings. The most obvious concern of course, is whether or not decisions can be made on the basis of this test. The concern is that terminations may occur simply because the baby is the 'wrong' gender which with the earliness of the test is a real possibility as ultrasound detection is much later. As the commentator in a 3 news article on the subject stated "People need to know this is not a serious test, not a test you could ever make a sensible decision on. In fact, I wouldn't even paint the colour of my room based on this test." I wouldn't either, it's not that hard to wait a few weeks for the anatomical scan and get the goods then with more accuracy.

One thing is piquing my curiosity though, and it's that no one has seriously questioned what this test is all about and what it measures. According to one article Rebecca Griffin a Real Estate Agent brainstormed this with a friend and worked with chemist to develop this product. This sounds remarkably like "Airborne" which was a product for colds developed by a teacher. Subsequent testing found this product had little or no effectiveness for it's claimed purpose. It always raises the BS detector when non-scientists claim to cook things up in their kitchen that are ground breaking in terms of science. Amazes me that when we have very accurate pregnancy tests that the people that worked on those didn't appear to work out something so obvious to a lay person.

The company hasn't given out any details about what exactly it is testing, but it's indicated it's hormones and reading between the lines it's possibly progesterone they are referring to as they state "Also, pregnant women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS] are most likely to receive a BOY result so the test is not able to accurately predict the proper gender. Women taking Progesterone are recommended not to take the test while on Progesterone unless the test is taken after 10 days from last dose." In pregnancy progesterone is produced in the ovaries and has it's role in preparing the uterus for a pregnancy, with the placenta taking over production in pregnancy at the rate of 300-400mg/day. The adrenal glands also produce some. After this, it's metabolised by dilution, return to the blood stream, taken up in the liver with part secreted into the bowel but partly reabsorbed into the bloodstream and then cleared by the kidneys. Any levels are really just measuring one point in time of something that is changing constantly but in pregnancy most women will be in that range.

Hard to see how that correlates with gender, even if it was another hormone like testosterone it's hardly likely to be any different as values vary across women and are individual. There isn't any such thing as gender specific hormones that I can find anywhere, although I could find some reports suggesting hCG might be lower in male pregnancies. Certainly the test doesn't appear of the type that detect this in any case as this would require blood tests that can do more than detect whether it's present or not. Even in PCOS, it's not always that hormones are grossly distorted from normal range and it's the ratio between them that the diagnosis is made from rather than actual levels. Progesterone supplementation is medically only given for women with proven luteal phase defect and not recommended in pregnancy.

Word out on the internet is that it's a simple pH test which would make sense as it says it turns yellow-orange for a girl (on a pH test 5.5-6.5 would be more acid and show up in the yellow/orange colour range) and for a boy smoky green (on a pH test 7-8 which would be more alkaline and show up as greenish). As diet can affect this (such as eating lots of citrus fruit) this is also hardly likely to correlate as normal values can vary wildly with abnormally high or low level mostly known to be due to medical conditions such as gastroenteritis.

Not willing to shell out lots of money to get it tested and find out what exactly it is though, would be great to do as you could do stuff like take a eat lots of oranges or take a urinary alkaliniser if you had a few to play with and see if that changes the result to identify if that is in fact the case.