IntelliGender Gender Prediction Test as accurate as a coin toss, doctors say
The "test," which sells for $30 or more at major retailers like CVS, Target and Walgreens, says it can tell expecting parents whether it's a boy or girl two months before they could find out from an ultrasound. Not only that, all the pregnant mom has to do is pee in a cup and wait 10 minutes for the results.
Some obstetricians are none too pleased with IntelliGender's claims. They say the test results in about the same accuracy as a coin toss or random guess.
"If people ask me, I tell them not to waste their money," said Dr. Jeffrey Ecker, a high-risk obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School professor. "I don't know of anything that would show up in the urine at that point in a pregnancy... that would be useful."
IntelliGender co-founder Rebecca Griffin said the product is indeed more accurate than a coin toss, but isn't so accurate that anyone should make a decision based on it. "We certainly don't make any claims of accuracy on the packaging," she said. "We want it to be known in the marketplace that our test is not 100 percent accurate."
Texas mom Kim Sharabura said she was aware of the company's stated inaccuracy rate when she took the test.
"I am reasonably skeptical in general -- I even take ultrasound results with a grain of salt -- so I figured, for the cost, it was worth knowing earlier even if there was a chance it wasn't correct," she said. "If it had said girl, I would have at least started mentally preparing myself for a girl. I was pretty sure we were going to have a boy so some mental prep was going to be necessary."
The test showed Sharabura was going to have a boy.
"We started to talk about boy names we liked," she said.
Then she went to the her ultrasound appointment and realized rather quickly that the do-it-yourself test was wrong.
"It was shock after that," she said.
Companys Says Test Is for 'Fun'
Dr. Alisa Modena, another high-risk obstetrician in New Jersey, said she has had patients disagree with the ultrasound results because it was at odds with the IntelliGender results. And, worse, she has known of people who have bought clothes for the wrong sex.
"They believe the test because it tells them what they want to hear," she said. "They're wasting their money and it's the patients who don't seem to have the money to afford spending it on this. They're giving them a sense of false hope and it's money they could be spending on something else."
Griffin said the kit isn't meant to be taken too seriously and she would be surprised anyone would make a decision about painting a nursery or buying clothes based on it. "I don't think anyone would do that," she said. "Most of our customers who email us that they got a wrong result still say it was fun."
It isn't until you get into the disclaimers that fill the company's instructions in the packages and the frequently asked questions of their web site that you get the sense you're not to take the results too seriously. Yet, it's sold alongside pregnancy tests at a suggested price of $34.99, not in the novelty section for a few dollars.
The company has made a point of steering clear of countries such as China, where determining the sex of a child could have dire consequences. IntelliGender claims lab tests show a 90 percent accuracy rate while "real world" testing puts that figure closer to 80 percent.
Griffin acknowledges a lot of people complain on blogs and to the company that they've gotten inaccurate results. But she said people are more likely to complain than praise and others have ulterior motives.
"You have to understand that people call or email us all the time stating that they got an incorrect result (and of course vice versa)," she wrote in an email. "They do this often to get a refund or a free test. We have no way to actually know if they are being truthful."
UPDATE: Following Consumer Ally's inquiries about the product and its claims, IntelliGender added a further disclaimer to its online FAQs.
A company offering a similar concept for $275 and making claims of 99 percent accuracy, Acu-Gen Biolab, filed for bankruptcy in December in the midst of a class-action lawsuit filed by a collection of parents who received erroneous results. Among other things, that company -- which did not suggest its product was for amusement -- was unable to bear the financial burden of its 200 percent money back guarantee.
Science Behind IntelliGender in Question
Ecker, the Harvard Medical School professor, said he'd gladly review the science the company claims is behind the product. "If there is any," he said. Griffin, a mother of four with no scientific background, said it "wouldn't be prudent" to reveal the science because the company's application for a patent is pending.
However, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera isn't taking that for an excuse. The attorney is challenging the company's claims and has demanded proof of the product's accuracy.
"IntelliGender is a product that came to our attention in which some of the advertised claims are dubious, and for which supporting evidence is notably unavailable to potential customers," Herrera said in a written statement. "Women and families interested in purchasing products like this are entitled to see the evidence that will enable them to be better informed consumers."
Griffin said she has provided the information Herrera was seeking under a confidentiality agreement. A spokesman for Herrera's office said he wasn't sure of the case's status.
The points raised by Herrera apply on an even larger scale. The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates marketing claims, operates under the basic premise that a claim that is misleading to consumers can run afoul of the law.
"Advertising claims have to backed up by competent and reliable scientific evidence," FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan said.
Griffin said her company is not misleading consumers.
"I did look at the box, we say nothing that is misleading," she said in an email, and quoted the language on the box: "(IntelliGender's) GPT is designed for easy home use by expectant moms curious about their baby's gender. It is a simple to use urine test than can be used as early as 6 weeks after the first day of your missed period and provides results in minutes."
Then she added that using the word "prediction" in "Boy or Girl Gender Prediction Test" ensures no one was being deceived.