Should You Find Out Your Unborn Baby's Sex? The Great Debate


From the moment your pregnant belly starts to show, chances are, you’ll be bombarded by family, friends, and strangers with this burning question: “Are you having a boy or a girl?” And while it’s fair to say that most people are curious about the sex of their baby, not everyone chooses to find out if they’re expecting a boy or a girl.

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Those who decide to stay in the dark may feel that, in an age when people have information at their fingertips, the anticipation is a rare joy. Not knowing may also prevent friends and family from flooding the nursery with gender-stereotyped blue or pink gifts.

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For others, the suspense would be sheer torture — especially for practical people who are innate planners and who, for example, want to start buying baby clothes. Knowing in advance can also help couples narrow down their list of baby names or contend with possible disappointment if their hearts are set on a specific sex. It may also be easier to prepare an older child for the arrival of a sibling by sharing whether they’re getting a brother or a sister.

The Research

60 percent of parents want to know the sex of their unborn baby, while 41 percent prefer to be surprised on delivery day, according to a Today survey.


Should you find out if you’re having a boy or a girl? (Photo: Camerique/ClassicStock/Corbis) 

“By your fifth month, around week 18 or 19 of your pregnancy, a sonogram can show you the sex of your unborn child with about 95 percent accuracy,” Daniel A. Potter, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Huntington Reproductive Center Medical Group, told Parents. “From a medical standpoint, we do an ultrasound to check the age, position, and health of the fetus, but most parents want to know the sex, too. That’s true if it’s the first baby or the fourth." 

Some women with high-risk pregnancies can also learn their baby’s sex through a new blood test called MaterniT21 Plus, which screens for chromosome abnormalities. As a perk, the test reveals whether the baby is male or female.

But even if an ultrasound technician tells you what you’re having, take it with a grain of salt. “It’s not that uncommon to have gender wrong,” John Williams III, MD, director of reproductive genetics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told CNN

What the Experts Say

If you decide not to find out, you may have to deal with the frustration of curious relatives and friends. But ultimately when it comes to the decision, “everybody gets to choose and we all need to respect what that choice is for each person,” Jennifer Hartstein, a child and family psychologist, told Today.

However, letting parents know the sex of their baby early on in a pregnancy isn’t without some controversy. Some experts are concerned that, in some cases, sharing this information may lead to parents terminating the pregnancy if their baby isn’t the sex they want. While sex-selective abortions are not a widespread issue in the U.S., it does happen within certain cultures and in countries such as India and China, particularly where boys are valued more than girls. “In an ideal world, if there’s a serious or life-threatening genetic problem with the fetus, I understand people will want to end this pregnancy and try again,” Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania told Time magazine. “But when you’re talking about picking a baby’s sex, doctors shouldn’t offer the test, companies shouldn’t offer it, and we should tell people that’s not a good reason to have an abortion.”

What the Parents Say

"I found out while I was pregnant. I really wanted a girl, so I thought it would be a good idea to mentally prepare for a boy if that’s what I was going to have. When I found out it was a girl, I screamed.” —Michelle Olsen-Rogers.

“I chose to know because I wanted to know everything about my baby, and I didn’t want doctors to know something I didn’t. I’m not that into gender-neutral colors, so knowing was key to decorating the nursery. If we had a boy, there would have been a bris eight days later, and I would have wanted to give my family advanced notice.” —Lauren W.

“We didn’t find out with either of my pregnancies. I am typically a control freak and need to know everything. But not knowing gave me a freeing feeling. My husband didn’t want to find out because he liked the idea of walking into the waiting room where my family was waiting and announcing it.” —Ali W.

The Bottom Line

Whether you learn what you’re having during an ultrasound or in the delivery room, it’s a personal decision that’s up to you and your partner. Ultimately, whether it’s a boy or a girl (or both), having a healthy baby is what every parent wants.

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