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What Is a Cabbage Gender Test?

Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Whether a baby will develop into a boy or a girl depends wholly on whether the father's sperm cell that fertilized the mother's egg had a dominant female X or a dominant male Y chromosome. Expectant mothers must wait until the second trimester to let an ultrasound test determine the gender of their babies. Many attempt to find out early, however, with an old-wives-tale test that involves mixing some urine with boiling red cabbage. Results of the cabbage gender test are supposedly guaranteed to be at least 50 percent accurate.

An ultrasound at about 18 to 20 weeks should reveal a baby's gender. At this time, technicians can determine whether more than one baby is coming and if any abnormalities are present. For generations, a way to try and at least satisfy the curiosity about a baby's gender has been to come home with a head of red cabbage and pull out a knife to administer the cabbage gender test.

In a pot, pregnant mothers mix a half a head of chopped red cabbage with about 2 cups (about 475 ml) of boiling water, using just enough cabbage to fully immerse the vegetables. The heat is lowered once the cabbage and water are boiling again. After 10 minutes at a simmer, the cabbage water will be a deep purple and ready to perform its rudimentary test of a mother's urinary pH.

Mothers should strain the liquid of all the cabbage. Then, a mixture is made of equal parts urine and cabbage water. According to several Web sites, many mothers use a morning sample to mix with the cabbage water, since its concentration will be highest. According to popular legend, the cabbage gender test causes the water color to fade to pink or red if a boy is on the way, but will remain purple if the baby is a girl. Others wives tales insist the color coding is the other way around — faded means a girl and purple means a boy.

Medical experts have shied away from settling the matter of the cabbage gender test. Many cite a stark difference in pH levels across all women, particularly during pregnancy — a factor that can either fade or leave some cabbage water purple. An ultrasound appears to be the only established means of determining gender.

A range of Web sites claim to help expectant mothers determine a baby's gender. These sites rank mothers on how they answer several questions pertaining to physical symptoms, alleging that mothers of boys and mother of girls experience pregnancy in slightly different ways. The sites refer to characteristics like whether mothers are carrying their babies high or low, if their legs have gotten hairier, and if they are craving meats or fruits, sweets or savories.

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Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Jun 06, 2014

@ana1234 - I don't know how often women would attempt an illegal abortion because a folk remedy declared they would have a girl. Admittedly, plenty of people did this after having ultrasounds, but I hope that it's never happened on the advice of cabbage water.

It sounds like the kind of thing that might work if the pH of urine had anything to do with pregnancy, but there are so many different variables, I wouldn't give it any credence.

I kind of wish that there wasn't so much folk lore surrounding this kind of thing. It just shows how important having one gender or the other is to be people that they will believe things like this.

By Ana1234 — On Jun 05, 2014

@MrsPramm - It actually could be kind of sinister if people take it too seriously, because it does sound scientific enough for people to believe, and there are, unfortunately, a lot of reasons for people to want to only have sons in some countries.

There are several countries in the world at the moment who are basically facing a shortage of women because female fetuses and babies were removed in preference of sons who could carry on the family name.

By MrsPramm — On Jun 04, 2014

This seems like the kind of thing my grandmother would have loved to do. She did that whole thing where you dangle a pendant over the stomach when my aunt was pregnant and correctly predicted that it would be a boy. But, I mean the article is right that it's always going to be 50% accurate with a 50/50 chance.

I wouldn't mind doing the pendant thing, as a bit of fun, but it would be a little bit too embarrassing for me to try anything with my urine in front of anyone else.

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