FARGO - Mitch and Stacie Selzler didn't want to know if their soon-to-be-born baby is a boy or girl - much to the frustration of their families. At the ultrasound, Stacie's mom tried to convince the technician to tell only her which gender her first grandchild would be.

"There aren't too many good surprises in life," says Stacie Selzler, now in her final month of pregnancy. "We wanted this to be one of those magical moments."

But the unknown gender has also led to lots of guesses, some based in old wives' tales, especially by Selzler's co-workers.

One co-worker dangled a pencil over her wrist. Another put Selzler's wedding band on a string and held it over her belly. Whether the pencil or ring swings side-to-side or in circles is supposed to indicate if it's a boy or girl.

People have also commented on how Selzler is carrying the baby. "I'm carrying high," she says. "If you ask some of my co-workers, they say that's a boy, and ask some, they say it's a girl."

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These assessments haven't produced any consistent results, other than entertainment.

"I'm starting to get a little annoyed by people telling me what I'm having. But it's fun. And we're all trying to have fun at the last few weeks of it, because I can tell you I'm tired and cranky," Selzler says.

Their omnipresence suggests a lot of pregnant women try predicting the gender of their baby through these sorts of adages. Here's a sampling:

  • If the woman craves sweets, it would mean she’s having a girl. If she craves sour or salty food, it’s a boy.
  • If the baby’s heart rate is fast (140 or above), it’s a girl. Below 140, it’s a boy.
  • If your leg hair grows faster than before you were pregnant, it’s a boy. If it grows at the same rate, you’re having a girl.

Rita Frovarp, a nurse at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, has worked at the hospital for three decades, nearly all that time in its family birth center. She says through the years she's heard many of these classic old wives' tales, though fewer are told today than 20 years ago.

She and her fellow nurses have heard predictions based on morning sickness, acne, weight distribution (hips or belly), Chinese prediction calendars and even Drano. (Allegedly, if a pregnant woman's urine is mixed with the crystal clog remover, it would change color according to the baby's gender. Frovarp wouldn't recommend pregnant woman handle the chemical.)

Frovarp can't vouch for the accuracy of the tests, or their origins. And there are plenty of discrepancies in what they mean, such as what color the Drano would turn and what direction the ring would swing. (As far as the varied opinions at Selzler's workplace about carrying high or low, most tales suggest girls are carried high and boys are carried low.)

Frovarp wonders if they differ by region - a nurse who had worked in the Southern U.S. said she heard boys had faster heart rates than girls.

Regardless, they have staying power. Frovarp gives some credit to the social nature of these tests. "It is just kind of a fun, whimsical and magical way to share your pregnancy with people," she says.

Nicole Mersiovsky of Fargo put several of the tales to the test when she was pregnant with her firstborn. "We wanted to know. We wanted to get ready. My husband was dead-set (the baby) was a girl. He was buying girls' stuff," she says.

She boiled cabbage on the stove and mixed the water with urine. It turned purple, indicating a girl.

Baby's heart rate was high (girl). Most Chinese gender prediction calendars said girl. The ring test came out girl, too.

She even bought a home gender prediction test, Intelligender. It sells at CVS pharmacy and Walgreens for $34.95, says www.babygenderprediction.

com. That predicted girl.

But an ultrasound in her 17th week painted a different picture. Her son, Coby, is now 10 months.

"For me, personally, it's a fun thing to do until you have the ultrasound," Mersiovsky says. "I'm just impatient and I wanted to know. I didn't put stock in them that I actually would in the way I did the ultrasound."

But, as Frovarp points out, "They are not 100 percent, either."

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman debunked the prediction methods in their book "Don't Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health."

"The truth is, your chance of randomly guessing the sex of your child is about 50-50. And, as it turns out, it is pretty difficult for any bogus method to beat those odds. Physicians and scientists alike have put this folklore to the test, and it turns out that these methods are pretty much bunk."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556