Finding out the sex of your baby
For most women today, it’s hard to imagine going through a pregnancy without having an ultrasound. But these iconic black-and-white images of a developing foetus, generated by the reflection of high frequency sound waves, have only been around since the mid-1950s, although the routine and widespread use of ultrasound in pregnancy has only been around from the 1970s.
Finding out the sex of your baby can be one of the most exciting moments in pregnancy, although many couples choose to wait until the birth to find out. If a woman does want to find out beforehand though, determining the baby’s gender is most commonly done through ultrasound anywhere between 18-20 weeks of pregnancy (about four and a half to five months). Normally, at this stage of pregnancy the baby’s sex can be determined, but not always. The position of the baby during the ultrasound is the most important aspect in our ability to tell the baby’s sex, and there’s no way to influence that. For obvious reasons, it’s usually easier to see if the baby is a boy!
There are a couple of other methods that can be used to determine your baby’s sex. One reliable method is doing a test called amniocentesis to check the baby’s chromosomes. This test is usually performed on a mother who is 35 years or older, for the purpose of identifying possible genetic problems. It involves inserting a needle into the uterus to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid. This test is usually done at around 16 weeks, so in this instance, the mother can find out the baby’s sex a little sooner. This test isn’t without risk, however, as it carries a low risk of miscarriage and therefore isn’t generally performed simply to determine the baby’s sex.
Another test that can look at the baby’s chromosomes is called CVS (chorionic villus sampling), which is performed during the first trimester to look for problems with the baby’s chromosomes. However, this test is infrequently used.
You’ve probably also come across some classic old wives’ tales such as you can tell the baby’s sex by the heart rate – on the myth that one sex is faster than another — but there is no evidence to support this at all. Some people claim they can tell the baby’s sex by the way you’re carrying, but, again, there is no scientific proof that this is true. Still others use a “pendulum test” in which an object is suspended over the pregnant belly and the baby’s sex is predicted depending on which way the pendulum swings. Again, there is no documented proof that this test works!
At the end of the day, whether you choose to find out whether you are having a boy or a girl during your pregnancy, or you decide to wait until the big day, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, you will soon be a proud mummy to an utterly beautiful little baby!
Tanya Strusberg is the only Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) in Australia and teaches prenatal education to pregnant women and their partners in Melbourne. She and her husband Doron have two beautiful children, Liev and Amalia.