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Can You Tell the Sex of a Baby by How the Mother Is Carrying?

By: Julia Layton & Francisco Guzman  | 

Carrying High or Low: Old Wives' Tale or Not?

woman carrying low
An older woman or one who's had her abdominal muscles loosened by prior pregnancies will usually carry lower. Plus the baby "drops" late in pregnancy. Kelvin Murray/Getty Images

Carrying high? It's a girl. Carrying low? It's a boy.

On its face, these statements don't sound all that unscientific — or least not as unscientific as the old swing a ring over a woman's pregnant belly trick. After all, it at least seems possible that the position or shape of the uterus could reflect something about the baby growing inside. And it's not just "high or low." There's also the belief that "carrying wide" indicates a girl, and "carrying narrow" means it's a boy.

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First, what do these things even mean?

High and low are about the tone of your abdominal muscles, body shape and other factors. "Carrying high" means the most protruding part of a pregnant belly (the "bump") is high on the mother's abdomen, sometimes right up under her breasts. "Carrying low" means the giant mound of baby is closer to the pelvis. "Wide" or "narrow" depends on if the baby is lying horizontally.

It turns out, the high/low method of determining a baby's sex is just as accurate as pouring Drano into a cup of the mother's urine. Which is to say, not at all. Lots of people would swear by these methods, but when there's always a 50/50 chance of being right, you're going to find lots of correct predictions.

It's unclear exactly why people believe the baby's gender determines the position of the bump, but it is perfectly clear what actually determines that position: muscles and body type. Basically, the tighter a woman's abdominal muscles (either due to age or fitness level), the higher the bump rides. An older woman or one who's had her abdominal muscles loosened by prior pregnancies will usually carry lower, whereas someone who's pregnant for the first time will usually carry higher.

And shape is related to body type — specifically, torso length. A short torso results in less room for the uterus to grow upward, so it ends up looking like a basketball bump. A woman with a longer torso has more room between the pubic bone and top of abdomen, which allows for weight to distribute evenly.

The baby's position matters, too. A baby who's stretching sideways makes a woman carry wider. And as the baby "drops" late in the pregnancy, a high bump will get lower.

Now, while old wives' tales are not actually very useful in deciding whether to stock up on pink or blue, that doesn't mean they're not fun to try. Some of them are downright wacky.