When you’re awaiting a new baby, few topics are discussed more frequently than baby’s gender. It’s often one of the very first questions your family, friends, and even strangers may ask. Deciding whether to find out baby’s sex, and whether to share that news with others, is one of the earliest decisions new parents make. Let’s explore when you can find out the gender of your baby and some methods for doing so.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Table of contents
- Why Would I Find Out Baby’s Gender Before Birth?
- Why Would I Wait to Find Out Baby’s Gender?
- How and When Can You Find Out The Gender of Your Baby?
- Managing the Reactions of Others
Why Would I Find Out Baby’s Gender Before Birth?
Help make baby feel more “real”
Many new parents are eager to find out the gender of their baby. Before your little one’s arrival, it feels like he or she is just the idea of a person. Learning whether baby will be a boy or a girl may help you feel like the concept of welcoming a child is more real… more tangible. And for those who feel apprehensive about the idea of becoming parents, finding out the gender may help bring about a hoped-for sense of excitement and anticipation to the pregnancy.
Acceptance & avoid disappointment
Sometimes parents find out the baby’s gender beforehand to encourage acceptance and avoid any disappointment at the birth. My friend had 5 girls. She and her husband wanted to try for baby #6 and hoped it would be a boy, though they would joyfully welcome another girl. In their case, they opted to find out the gender beforehand to ease any unfair pressure on their newborn baby.
You may descend from a culture that perceives one gender as more prized or valuable than another. Even if you are personally detached from such a way of thinking, older family members may not be. Finding out the gender beforehand can give family a chance to process baby’s gender well beforehand.
Of course, there are always the practical benefits of finding out baby’s gender. Do you want to have a conventional pink or blue color scheme? If so, buying baby clothes, gift registries for baby showers, and decorating a nursery can be done more easily in advance of baby’s birth when you know the gender beforehand.
Why Would I Wait to Find Out Baby’s Gender?
While it may seem that most people these days find out the gender of a baby before birth, many parents still opt to wait. One survey from Harvard Medical School showed that 42% of expecting parents wait until birth to find out the gender of their baby (1). So while you’d be slightly in the minority, you’re definitely not alone if choose not to find out ahead of time.
As a mom of 7, my husband and I have typically opted to find out our baby’s gender beforehand. But, with baby #3, we left it as a surprise until birth. We already had a girl and a boy, so we didn’t need to do any baby clothes shopping. And we thought it might add a sense of fun and anticipation to the birth, which it did! After the hard work of labor, revealing our baby’s gender was almost like opening a Christmas present that we had been staring at under the tree for weeks. As we get older, life brings us few genuine surprises. Why not add a bit of excitement to your life?!
Who said boys have to wear blue and girls pink? Some parents find that dressing their baby in gender-neutral colors provides the opportunity to re-use clothes and baby items for future babies. And some just prefer not to dress along the lines of gener stereotypes. While of course you don’t have to wait on baby’s gender to opt for neutral colors, it does enable friends and family to more confidently shop for your little one before the birth.
Ultrasounds can be wrong sometimes
While ultrasounds are typically an accurate way to determine baby’s gender, they’re certainly not fail-proof. I recently worked with a mom whose ultrasound revealed that she was having a girl. Full of excitement, she purchased clothes, blankets, crib bedding, and stuffed animals in various shades of pink. She also painted and decorated the baby’s nursery with a very feminine feel.
When health conditions necessitated a 38-week ultrasound, this mom was shocked to find out that she was, in fact, giving birth to a boy. While she loves her son, she said that she temporarily grieved the loss of the idea of having a daughter. And, she was out a lot of money that she had spent on pink paint and baby items, too.
How and When Can You Find Out The Gender of Your Baby?
If you want to find out your baby’s gender, there are several common ways you could learn this information. When you can do so varies based on which test you use. Let’s look at the different options.
The most common way to find out the gender of your baby is with an ultrasound. Most healthcare providers recommend a scan at around 18 – 20 weeks gestation. People often look forward to this scan to find out gender. However, the primary role of this ultrasound is to evaluate each of baby’s growing body systems and to ensure that everything is progressing smoothly. It can show your provider your baby’s organs and skeleton, the position of the placenta, the amount of amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord, and the uterus (2).
While they’re taking a look, though, it is true that by the mid-pregnancy scan, providers can usually tell what gender your baby is. The external genitals are typically differentiated enough to be clearly visible by 14 – 17 weeks (3). In fact, one study showed that after 13 weeks, ultrasound is accurate 99% of the time.
Unlike ultrasound, amniocentesis is not a standard procedure in most pregnancies. The procedure involves putting a needle through the abdomen and into the uterus to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid. It is only indicated in pregnancies where there’s an increased chance of genetic disorder or chromosomal abnormality. An amnio is usually performed around weeks 15 – 20, and if you do have one, you can find out the gender of your baby from the test results. Amnio is the most accurate way to determine baby’s gender because it looks at fetal DNA.
CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling)
CVS is another test that is used to detect genetic abnormalities, and it is only used in cases where there is an increased risk. For this test, your provider takes a small piece of chorionic villus (a type of placental tissue) either through the vagina with a tube or through the abdominal wall with a needle. This test can be done earlier than amniocentesis, usually between week 10 and 12. The results can tell gender in 99% or more of cases.
NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing)
NIPT, also called cell-free DNA testing, is a newer test that some women may be offered to screen for chromosomal conditions. (It is a screening, which means that it screens for the possibility of a problem but doesn’t definitively diagnose one.) For this test, they just need a blood sample. They look for fragments of fetal DNA that have passed into your blood stream from the placenta. This test can be done as early as 10 weeks gestation and is accurate way to tell baby’s gender up to 98% of the time.
Managing the Reactions of Others
If you decide not to find out the gender of your baby, you will no doubt be met with some disappointment. Friends and family share in your excitement, and may be eager to learn as much as possible about your little one. Still, no one should make you feel guilty for deciding to wait, no matter how eager they are to know the gender personally.
Parenthood will be filled with unsolicited advice and perhaps well-meaning friends and family giving you their opinions about your choices. Consider this practice for the advice to come. Remember that you are the one who is entrusted to make decisions for your family and child(ren.) You don’t need to justify your choices to anyone. You may choose to explain why you’ve chosen to find out or not find out the gender of your baby, or you may choose to shut down any arguments by simply saying, “We’re happy with the decision we’ve made,” and moving on. If you’re happy with your choice, it’s up to others to manage their own feelings about it.
- Shipp, T., Shipp, D., Bromley, B., Sheahan, R., Cohen, A., Lieberman, E., & Benacerraf, B. (2004, November 25). What Factors Are Associated with Parents’ Desire To Know the Sex of Their Unborn Child? Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2004.00319.x
- Simkin, P. (2010). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, 4th edition. Meadowbrook Press.
- Barratt, J., Cross, C., Steel, S., & Biswas, C. (2016). The pregnancy encyclopedia: All your questions answered. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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