Wondering what color to paint the nursery? No more dangling a ring over the belly – or any of the other strange methods expectant mothers have tried to predict the gender of their baby. A pregnancy test now available in retail drugstores includes a gender test kit that can be used as early as seven weeks post-conception.

Consumer Genetics (Sunnyvale, California) says its Pink or Blue pregnancy test with early DNA gender test collection kit is the first retail pregnancy test to include a gender-testing component. According to the company the pregnancy test is 99% accurate and the gender test is about 95% accurate.

While some couples do enjoy the element of surprise when it comes to their baby's gender, the company references a 2007 Gallup Panel poll that found about 50% of parents-to-be (or more than 2.25 million parents each year in the U.S. alone) would like to know the gender of the baby before the birth.

There are several old wives' tales expectant mothers have followed over the years to predict the gender of their baby. If a woman is carrying high during her pregnancy, for example, she may hear that she is having a girl, or if she is carrying low she may be led to believe it's a boy. Pregnant women also have been told over the years to dangle a necklace (or a ring on a string) over their belly – a back-and-forth motion indicates a boy, while a circular motion suggests she is having a girl.

These methods are far from scientific, however, and most women instead rely on an ultrasound exam to determine gender.

But for expectant parents, waiting until 18 weeks gestation – when ultrasound for gender determination is usually performed – can feel more like 18 months. There are other tests, such as amniocentesis and chronic villus sampling, which can determine gender but pose a risk to both the mother and baby, and thus should not be done for that reason alone.

Even ultrasound can produce inconclusive results where gender is concerned, Terry Carmichael, VP of marketing & sales at Consumer Genetics, told Medical Device Daily. Carmichael said that there are a lot of variables involved with using ultrasound to determine gender. The technician's experience and skill level can come into play, he says, as some clinicians are more comfortable calling it than others.

The Pink or Blue pregnancy test with early gender test collection kit can be purchased off the retail drugstore shelf, or online, for $24.95 and used at home to collect samples for use in a DNA test to predict the baby's gender. Once a woman determines she is pregnant, she can use the included gender test kit as early as seven weeks post-conception.

The gender test involves a finger-prick blood sample for DNA collection and preservation. The kit is then mailed to the lab, with an additional lab fee of $199. The DNA test includes a money-back guarantee with proof of the child's gender, Consumer Genetics said.

Carmichael said the Pink or Blue DNA gender test has been available as a stand-alone product since mid-2006. It works by detecting small traces of fetal Y-chromosomal DNA in the mother's blood sample. If the Y-chromosomal DNA is present, the mother is expecting a boy, if absent, a girl.

When the woman takes the gender test, Carmichael says it is very important that she follows the instructions carefully and make sure she takes the test in an area completely free of adult male DNA. If the lab determines that a test is contaminated by adult male DNA, gender results will not be released and the company will ask the consumer to take a re-test.

According to the company, the at-home specimen collection is simple, non-invasive and results are available in just three to five business days.

"[I was] so happy I had the opportunity to find out early on," said first-time mom Leah Berg of Indiana in a company statement. "I just couldn't wait."

The Pink or Blue pregnancy test with early gender test collection kit can already be found in some independent pharmacies in California, the company noted. Consumer Genetics says this is the first fetal DNA testing product to be offered through retail channels.

"We are ... excited to see how well this new pregnancy kit moves off the shelves in the independent pharmacies," Carmichael said.