What Is the Ring Test for Gender?

By: Debra Ronca  | 
baby gender ring test
The ring test for predicting a baby's gender is so old that it's impossible to figure out how it even started. EMBRA/MEDIAFORMEDICAL/THINKSTOCK/GETTYIMAGES

When you're expecting a baby, one of the most common questions you’ll hear is whether you're having a boy or a girl. Some people like to wait until the birth and be surprised. Others try all sorts of things to predict the sex of the baby before it's time for an ultrasound — including the ring test for gender.


How Many Expectant Parents Want to Know the Biological Sex of Their Unborn Child?

A 2012 study in the Netherlands found that 69% of pregnant people wanted to know the sex of the fetus before birth; a similar study in the United States published in 2004 found 58% of expectant parents either knew or planned to find out the unborn baby's sex before delivery.

And while science can determine a baby's sex in utero as soon as 10 weeks into a pregnancy, old wives' tales that have been passed down through generations tell parents-to-be how to guess the gender even sooner. Some people swear by these gender prediction methods despite lacking scientific evidence, and some just do them for fun.


How Do You Perform the Ring Test?

To perform the ring test, also known as the string test, take a ring that belongs to the pregnant person (a wedding ring, for instance) and tie it to a thread or string. Have the pregnant person lie down and let someone else (such as a family member) dangle the ring over the baby bump.

According to the ring test, the baby will be female if the ring moves in a circle. The baby will be male if the ring swings back and forth in a straight line. Then again, as with many folktales, some people say the exact opposite: If the ring swings in a circle, it means the baby is a boy, and if it swings back and forth, it's a girl.


Of course, there is no scientific method to determine the sex of an unborn baby other than working with an obstetrician.

Is the Ring Test Accurate?

Can the ring test still be accurate if there's no scientific basis for this old wives' tale?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wanted to find out, too. In 1999, they asked 104 pregnant people to predict the sex of their unborn babies, using whatever method they preferred — the ring test, dreams or any other hunch.


The people studied had a 55 percent success rate, about the same as taking a wild guess. So it seems the ring test, and others like it, can't predict a baby's gender any better than flipping a coin.

But like all superstitions or folklore, our brains want to believe. Engaging in superstitious behavior can provide a sense of control. The person holding the string may wish for a girl, so they begin swinging the ring in circles using subtle muscle movements. If their gender predictions come true, they may pass the method to others.


History of the Ring Gender Test

The wedding ring gender test has its roots in pendulum-assisted divination. For hundreds — if not thousands — of years, people have tied weights to strings to create pendulums and interpreted their gentle swing to answer life’s big questions.

According to a 1697 British text, the ancient Greeks "fill'd a Bowl with Water, and let down into it a Ring, equally poised on each side and hanging by a Thread tied to one of the Fingers: then in a form of Prayer requested of the Gods to declare, or confirm the Question in dispute; where upon, if the thing proposed was true, the Ring of its own accord would strike against the side of the Bowl a set number of Times."


At-home Gender Test FAQ

What is a baby’s gender test?
A gender test is a method of determining the sex of an unborn baby. There are various types of baby gender tests including ultrasound and bloodwork, as well as common unscientific methods that are based more on folklore.
How can I find out my baby’s gender at home?
If you want to find out your baby's gender at home, you first need to accept that you only have about a 55 percent chance of being correct. According to folklore, though, the baking soda test can help. This method involves combining a pregnant woman's urine with baking soda to see if it fizzes. If the urine fizzes, then it’s a boy. If nothing happens, it’s a girl. There are also many other at-home prediction “tests” that can allegedly tell you the sex of a baby, though none of them are scientific.
Is a blood test 100 percent accurate for gender?
Noninvasive prenatal testing, which involves taking a blood sample to test for chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus’s DNA, is also an accurate way to learn the biological sex of a fetus. According to a 2011 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, these tests are about 95 percent accurate at seven weeks of pregnancy.
How early can you do a home gender test?
You need to be at least seven weeks pregnant to take an at-home NIPT test, and only a few companies offer them. Popular brands include SneekPeek, Peekaboo and eGenderTest, which vary in price from $20 to $169.
Can you find out the gender at 12 weeks?
Normally, you can opt to find out the sex of the baby at the 20-week ultrasound, as the genitals are visible starting around the 12-week mark. If you’re comfortable with bloodwork, you may be able to find out the sex after nine or ten weeks. The caveat is that this test - called an NIPT - is primarily for genetic conditions, so you can’t get one just to find out the baby’s sex unless you pay for one privately.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Carroll, Joseph. "Do Americans Want to Be Surprised by the Sex of Their Baby?" Gallup.com. July 20, 2007. (Aug. 31, 2022) https://news.gallup.com/poll/28180/americans-want-surprised-sex-their-baby.aspx
  • FitPregnancy. "Old Wives Vs. Science." 2014. (Dec. 10, 2014) http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/old-wives-vs-science
  • Dagnall, Neil. "The science of superstition – and why people believe in the unbelievable." The Conversation. July 2, 2018 (Aug. 31, 2022) https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-superstition-and-why-people-believe-in-the-unbelievable-97043
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Educated Moms Better at Predicting Baby's Sex." Aug. 31, 1999. (Aug. 31, 2022) http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/1999/predict-baby-sex.html
  • Miles, Karen. "NIPT (Noninvasive prenatal testing)." Babycenter.com. March 16, 2022. (Aug. 31, 2022) https://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy/health-and-safety/nipt-noninvasive-prenatal-testing_10404483
  • Nicolson, Paula, Rebekah Fox and Kristin Heffernan. "Constructions of Pregnant and Postnatal Embodiment Across Three Generations." Journal of Health Psychology, May 2010. (Dec. 10, 2014) http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/15/4/575.abstract
  • Spencer, Susan. "Superstitions: Why you believe." CBS News. Oct. 28, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2014) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/superstitions-why-you-believe/
  • Walsh, Ella. "10 ways to predict your baby's sex." Kidspot. Aug. 9, 2010. (Dec. 10, 2014) http://www.kidspot.com.au/familyhealth/Pregnancy-Health-10-ways-to-predict-your-babys-sex+3485+184+article.htm
  • WebMD. "Predicting Your Baby's Sex." 2003. (Dec. 10, 2014) http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/predicting-your-babys-sex