Is it a boy, a girl ... or a hoax?

The IntelliGender test kit claims to determine a fetus' sex at only 10 weeks of pregnancy. But is it for real?

By Judy Berman

Published June 9, 2009 1:20PM (EDT)

Are you a mom-to-be who just can't wait till the 20-week sonogram to know your fetus' sex? Well, has CNN got the product for you! One of the site's top-rated stories of the day introduces us to the IntelliGender test kit, which will supposedly tell you, as early as 10 weeks into your pregnancy, whether you're having a boy or a girl. While the product has been available online since 2006, it just hit major American drugstores CVS and Walgreen's in May. 

Of course, anti-choice groups are freaking out about IntelliGender, which they believe may lead to sex-selection abortions. "We're starting to see higher incidence of aborting girls among ethnic groups who have migrated to the U.S.," Anthony Lauinger, vice president of National Right to Life, told CNN. (In case you're wondering -- no, he didn't go on to identify the ethnic groups in question or cite statistics that may have helped support his claim. And, strangely enough, the head of an anti-choice group in New Zealand used basically the same vague language to condemn IntelliGender in a LifeNews article.)

But the anti-choice movement's concerns about sex selection may be premature. As women who do even a small amount of research on the product will find out, IntelliGender isn't exactly scientifically sound. Not surprising considering the packaging looks about as authoritative as a novelty pill bottle filled with jelly beans. While CNN reports that it has a 78 to 80 percent accuracy rate, the test kit's online FAQ boasts that IntelliGender predicts correctly 90 percent of the time in a laboratory setting and in 82 percent of "real world" situations. (And it seems fair to point out that random guessing would also yield accurate results 50 percent of the time.)

A search for "IntelliGender" on major Internet forums turns up even more anecdotal evidence against the product. One woman writes in to Yahoo! Answers with the question, "Does intelligender test really work?" Of three respondents who used the product, only one obtained accurate results. Even on the forums at Ingender -- a site that professes to be "The Gender Selection Guide" for couples looking to conceive -- a chorus of women chime in to chastise a mother-to-be who panics after her test results change from boy to girl after 10 minutes. The consensus? "Those silly products ... are really just for fun."

It seems strange that, despite widespread doubts about IntelliGender's effectiveness, CNN didn't bother to consult a physician about it. But hey -- why actually let readers know whether the product even works when you can create controversy about sex-selection abortions instead?

UPDATE: I e-mailed physician and Salon contributor Dr. Rahul K. Parikh for his take on IntelliGender. Here's what he had to say: "I'm very skeptical of products that make claims and back up those claims with testimonials instead of data. The website doesn't have specifics about the nature of the test (probably because these folks have a patent pending on their 'brilliant' technology), but rather uses quotes from satisfied customers. Products like this are not FDA approved or regulated, so buy and paint the room pink or blue at your own risk."

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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