One of the most difficult decisions parents-to-be often make is whether or not to learn the gender of their baby in advance. Obviously, there are good reasons for both sides. For example, you wouldn’t want to purchase Blue Bunny Buggy birth announcements if your baby turned out to be a little girl. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to choose the Pink cards for the announcement of your baby girl’s entrance into the world.
If you do decide to know the gender of your baby, then you should also know that there are several ways of finding out this information.
Medical Methods: The Ultrasound
The most obvious medical method is the ultrasound. With this method, sound waves are sent into the uterus and they bounce back a picture of the baby growing there. Although ultrasounds can be completed at any time during the pregnancy, only ones done after about 18 weeks can help parents learn their baby’s sex. The down side is that some studies are suggesting overused ultrasounds can lead to health problems. One study found that the ultrasound’s waves actually heat up the cells and change the way cells move in the baby. For these reasons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has warned doctors not to perform routine ultrasounds – most do anyway but you should be aware of the potential risk, even if it’s very minor.
Another downside to ultrasounds is that they aren’t extremely accurate. In fact, they are the least accurate of all medical methods for determining sex, possibly because they rely so heavily on the baby’s cooperation and on the perception of the person looking at the ultrasound results.
The other two methods are not done just for the purpose of learning a baby’s sex. They are normally done to check for other problems and actually pose a much higher risk to a baby’s safety than do ultrasounds. However, if you do have to have one of these procedures done, then you should realize the results can provide you with this information.
The Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) test is performed only when doctors suspect the baby may have genetic abnormalities. It is done fairly early during the pregnancy – usually between 8 to 11 weeks. To do the test, a small piece of the placenta is removed and tested. Although the test can warn parents of potential serious problems, it also causes miscarriage in about 4% of the cases. Generally, the results are returned within one to two weeks and are fairly accurate with regards to the baby’s gender.
An Amniocentesis is another diagnostic test that also let parents know the gender of their unborn baby. During this test, a needle is used to withdraw fluid from around the baby and that fluid is tested. The test can alert parents to potential health problems in their baby but does have a small risk of miscarriage and/or pregnancy complications. The test can be done at around nine weeks, but the results can take two weeks to a month to come back.
Overall, if you want to know your baby’s gender, the ultrasound is still the safest and most widely used medical method. Of course, there are also non-medical methods that have been used for centuries to help parents learn in advance whether they will have a girl or a boy.