Gender Ultrasound: Are You Having a Boy or Girl?
Ultrasounds are a key tool for analyzing the health of your fetus, but they also serve another exciting purpose: Revealing whether you're having a boy or girl. But how do gender ultrasounds work, and are they always accurate? We spoke with experts to break down your most pressing questions.
How Do Gender Ultrasounds Work?
While you're reclining on an exam table, the ultrasound technician will slather gel on your belly, then she'll glide over it with a plastic transducer that emits high-frequency sound waves. These waves bounce off of your little one's body to produce an image of her soft tissues, organs, and other anatomy—including reproductive parts. The image will be displayed on a monitor for you and your partner to see.
Ultrasounds are considered safe, and they don't involve X-rays or radiation. The exam also doesn't hurt, although the gel may feel cold and be messy.
Boy vs. Girl Ultrasound Predictions: Are They Accurate?
As it turns out, gender ultrasounds are pretty accurate. One recent study found that the ultrasound technician correctly predicted a baby's gender 98 percent of the time. Still, the results of your individual exam will depend on a number of factors, including timing, your baby's position, your body size, and whether you're carrying multiples.
Timing: "The accuracy of the ultrasounds increases as gestational age advances," says Bart Putterman, M.D., an OB-GYN at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston.
Your Baby's Position: "Some fetuses are bashful and keep their legs together and impair determination of gender," says Dr. Putterman. "If they are not clearly visualized, mistakes can be made when sonographers guess the gender based on a suboptimal examination." If your sonographer is having a tough time seeing between your baby's legs, take any answer you get from her with a grain of salt.
Your Body Size: If you're plus-sized, that additional body mass can prohibit a clear image of your baby. "Determining a fetus' sex on ultrasound is certainly more difficult in women who are overweight or obese," says Michele Hakakha, M.D., a Beverly Hills-based OB-GYN and the author of Expecting 411.
Pregnancy with Multiples: If you're carrying twins or triplets (or more!), your babies could hide their siblings, making determination of the sex of each baby more difficult.
When Should I Get a Gender Ultrasound?
Early ultrasounds aren't the most accurate gauge of whether you're expecting a boy or girl, according to some experts. "The earliest in pregnancy that the fetus's sex can be determined by ultrasound is about 12 weeks, and even then, it can be very difficult," says Dr. Hakakha. "The external genitalia—the vulva or penis and scrotum—are not actually external until about 13 weeks."
You may want to wait until your later ultrasounds, such as your 20-week anatomy scan, for a more definitive answer. Bottom line: Don't go out and buy that pretty pink dress after your very first ultrasound, unless you keep the receipt!
- By Lisa Milbrand and Nicole Harris
When and how can I find out my baby's sex?
When can I find out my baby's sex with a blood test?
You can find out your baby's sex if you have noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT), a blood test that can detect Down syndrome and a few other chromosomal conditions starting at 10 weeks of pregnancy. (It takes a week or two to get the results.) It also looks for pieces of the male sex chromosome in your blood, which can be used to determine whether you're carrying a boy or a girl. This test is intended for women at higher risk of having a baby with chromosomal disorders but is often available to women at lower risk as well. Discuss with your provider whether the test is appropriate for you.
Note: Some early gender DNA tests you can do at home claim to deliver accurate results as early as 8 weeks. But with no independent studies to back up those claims, you may be better off relying on standard tests to find out your baby's sex. More on these below.
When can I find out my baby's sex by ultrasound?
Many pregnant women find out their baby's sex (if they choose to know) during their midpregnancy ultrasound, which is usually done between 18 and 22 weeks. However, if the technician can't get a clear view of the baby's genitals, it may not be possible to tell for sure.
Although a baby's penis or vulva begins forming as early as 6 weeks, boy and girl babies look very similar on ultrasound until about 14 weeks, and it can still be hard to tell them apart for several weeks after that. By 18 weeks, an ultrasound technician will most likely be able to identify the sex – if the baby is in a position that allows the genitals to be seen. Otherwise, you may be able to find out if you have another ultrasound later in your pregnancy.
When can I find out my baby's sex with CVS or amnio?
Other women find out their baby's sex from a genetic test like chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. These tests are usually done to determine whether a baby has a genetic disorder or a chromosomal abnormality, like Down syndrome. CVS is usually done between 10 and 13 weeks, and amniocentesis between 16 and 20 weeks. You have to wait for 2 weeks for the results from both tests. Women who are not at increased risk of genetic and chromosomal problems don't typically have CVS or amnio, in part because these tests are invasive and carry a small risk of miscarriage.
Can I find out my baby's sex during IVF?
If you have preimplantation genetic testing during in vitro fertilization (IVF), your embryos are tested for genetic or chromosomal abnormalities and sex. Preimplantation genetic testing is almost 100 percent accurate in determining the sex of the embryos. But if you have embryos of both sexes placed in your uterus, you won't know which one(s) implant.
Do gender predictor tests work?
There's no shortage of methods for predicting a baby's sex at home, but these methods lack scientific proof. For example, the Ramzi theory is not recognized by professional medical organizations (including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) as a reliable predictor. Most gender predictor tests are clearly just for fun and offer only a 50/50 chance of being accurate – the same as guessing.
At-home gender kits (available mostly online) test blood or urine to predict your baby's sex, but there's no scientific evidence that these tests really work.
SneakPeek, for example, tests a blood sample and claims to be 99 percent accurate as early as 8 weeks, but no independent studies support this claim. IntelliGender is an at-home kit that tests urine to predict your baby's sex, but the company doesn't claim any particular accuracy rate. It also recommends against making decisions based on the test results, emphasizing that it's really just for fun.
Note: We're using the word gender here because people often use this word when talking about their child's sex. However, the two are not the same. A child is generally assigned a sex at birth based on biological characteristics, such as their genitals. But their sex designation may not match the gender identity (based on feelings and behaviors) that they assume later.
Gender prediction: Am I having a girl or a boy?
Inside pregnancy: Girl or boy?
15 fun baby gender predictor tests
Chinese gender predictor
Choosing your baby's sex: What the scientists say
Choosing your baby's sex: The folk wisdom
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Surprise! A gender mistake revealed at 33 weeks pregnant
Have you ever been one of those people who think "oh, that could never happen to me?" I certainly have. But, to my surprise, I have become the person that things happen to. More specifically, I'm the person whose baby's gender was incorrectly diagnosed!
My husband and I learned last week that, contrary to our belief and the information provided to us over the past five months, our sweet baby number two is not, actually, a boy.
You heard me right. Baby #2 is a she!
Here's the quick version of our story: At about 13 weeks pregnant, I had my end-of-the-first-trimester ultrasound. My doctor's office, with the caveat that it was pretty early, said they were about 75 percent sure it was a boy.
Fast forward two weeks, when my hubs and I (for whom patience is not a virtue) got an elective ultrasound with an ultrasound technician's office and he declared that it was 100 percent a boy. He also called my son's gender at the same time frame, so we trusted him and his opinion. At 20 weeks, I had another ultrasound with my doctor's office. Apparently my little bean had legs crossed and pulled back, so there was no gender confirmation done that day. But we showed the technician the 15 week photos and she, like us, was pretty sure at what we were looking at and said, for sure that's a boy!
Now, here we are, 13 weeks later. My doctor wanted to check my fluid levels (sorry, TMI) and ordered an ultrasound for me last Thursday.
Picture this: My husband, David, and I waltz into the ultrasound room, excited to see our little man. I lay down, the technician squirted the gel all over my stomach, pulled up the image on the television screen and said, "Your baby girl looks perfectly healthy!"
David awkward laughed and said, "Ha! You mean our baby boy?"
"Oh no," the technician says, "this is 100 percent a girl."
Several days and one more third-party ultrasound technician opinion later (who, for the record, unanimously agreed that we are 100 percent having a little girl), the shock remains. Our second child, whom we've already named with a boy name, bought boy clothes for and made a boy nursery for is... a girl! That's some crazy news when you're only about five weeks from meeting her, right?!
Crazy, but unbelievably exciting. It's hard to put into words how we feel. First of all, David and I feel so blessed to have a healthy second baby growing and ready to meet us soon. And, while we were beyond thrilled to have another little boy, we are over the moon excited about the fact that she's a little girl. Seriously, what incredible news! It's like this little creature we had no clue existed in the world has been with us the whole time. It's surreal.
For those of you who are wondering, apparently the original gender confirmations were made in error due to some hormone-surged swollen little girl parts. Again, TMI, but it can happen, apparently. So here we are! I'm 33-weeks pregnant and had my son at 38 weeks, meaning that we've probably got about five weeks to find this sweet little girl a name, some clothes and a nursery. But one thing is for certain- she's already got a huge spot in my and David's hearts and in our little family of soon-to-be four.
Have any of you ever had a mistaken gender confirmation?! We keep laughing that at least we found out now and not in the delivery room... but I'm sure that's happened to some of you out there! I'd love to hear your stories!
The ultrasound identification of fetal gender at the gestational age of 11–12 weeks
Author informationCopyright and License informationDisclaimer
1Department of Radiology, Faculty of Medicine, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran
Address for correspondence: Dr. Farideh Gharekhanloo, Department of Radiology, Besat Hospital, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran. E-mail: [email protected]_rd
Copyright : © 2018 Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care
This is an open access journal, and articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License, which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as appropriate credit is given and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.
The early prenatal identification of fetal gender is of great importance. Accurate prenatal identification is currently only possible through invasive procedures. The present study was conducted to determine the accuracy and sensitivity of ultrasound fetal gender identification.
Materials and Methods:
The present cross-sectional study was conducted on 150 women in their 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy in Hamadan in 2014. Ultrasound imaging performed in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy for fetal gender identification identified the fetus either as a girl, a boy, or as a “gender not assigned.” Frequency, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy of the gender identification was assessed using SPSS version 20. The significant level was 0.05 in all analyses.
Of the total of 150 women, the gender was identified as female in 32 (21.3%), as male in 65 (43.3%), and not assigned in 53 (35.3%); overall, gender identification was made in 64.6% of the cases. A total of 57 male fetuses were correctly identified as boys, and 8 female fetuses were wrongly identified as boys. As for the female fetuses, 31 were correctly identified as girls, and 1 was wrongly identified as a boy. The positive predictive value for the ultrasound imaging gender identification was 87.6% for the male fetuses and 96.8% for the female fetuses.
The present study had a much higher gender identification accuracy compared to other studies. The final success of fetal gender identification was about 91% in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy.
Keywords: Fetal gender, pregnancy, ultrasound
The early prenatal identification of fetal gender is of great importance in the management of pregnancy in families at risk for certain inherited diseases. Accurate prenatal identification is currently only possible through invasive procedures and chorionic villus sampling (CVS).[1,2,3] Occasionally, CVS is difficult to perform, posing a 1%–5% threat of pregnancy loss. The fetal gender can be identified even in the first trimester of pregnancy from the 11th-week onward through observing the direction of the genital tubercle and sagittal sign. A downward tubercle indicates a female fetus and an upward tubercle a male fetus.[3,4] If the examination of the midline sagittal view of the genital area shows a caudal notch, the fetus is female, and if it shows a cranial notch, then the fetus is male. In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, ultrasound imaging scans the genital anatomy of the fetus to identify its gender. In the early studies conducted on the use of ultrasound results for identifying the fetal gender, a male fetus was demonstrated by the presence of a scrotum and a penis, and a female fetus by the absence of these organs.
With technological advances, seeing the vulva, clitoris, and labia are taken to indicate a female fetus, whereas seeing the scrotum, penis, testicles, and raphe indicate a male fetus. Seeing the internal pelvic structure of the fetus, including the uterus and ovary, is also used to help identify the fetal gender.
There is a substantial chance of getting a false-negative diagnosis if the ultrasound imaging for fetal gender identification has been performed in the first trimester of pregnancy.[3,7] However, research suggests a better sensitivity of ultrasound imaging for fetal gender identification performed in the second trimester of pregnancy.
The sensitivity of gender identification measures depends on the operator, machine, and habitus involved, and it increases with the radiologist's experience and if ultrasound imaging is performed using the high-resolution machine. A false fetal gender identification has adverse psychological effects on the family. Specialists are therefore constantly seeking to make accurate fetal gender identification in the first trimester of pregnancy. The present study was conducted to determine the accuracy and sensitivity of ultrasound fetal gender identification in Hamadan.
Materials and Methods
The present cross-sectional study was conducted progressively on 150 women in their 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy visiting private clinics in Hamadan for ultrasound fetal gender identification in 2014. Ultrasound imaging performed in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy for fetal gender identification identified the fetus either as a girl, a boy, or as a “gender not assigned.”
Some patients visited during their second or third trimesters of pregnancy to confirm their fetal gender and register the ultimate fetal gender identified. In patients who did not visit during their second or third trimesters of pregnancy, the ultimate fetal gender identification was confirmed over the phone.
The ultrasound imaging device used was GE Voluson E6. Ultrasound imaging was performed by a radiologist; the genital region was examined in a mid-sagittal plane, and the fetal gender was assigned as male if the angle of the genital tubercle to a horizontal line through the lumbosacral skin surface was >30° and female when the genital tubercle was parallel or convergent (<30°) to the horizontal line.
The data obtained were analyzed in SPSS 20 (SPSS, Chicago, IL, USA). The descriptive analysis of the data was conducted through assessing the frequency, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy of the gender identified. The researchers used Chi-square test, Fisher's exact test, and t-test with a significance level of 0.05 to identify any significant differences between the data.
Ultrasound imaging was performed in 150 pregnant women, 51 (34%) of whom were in their 11th week of pregnancy and 99 (66%) in their 12th week. The youngest female fetus whose gender was correctly identified was 11-week-old, and the youngest male fetus whose gender was correctly identified was 11 weeks and 1 day old. The correct identification of gender was not related to the fetal gender (Fisher's exact test, P = 0.264).
Gestational age was significantly higher in cases where fetal gender identification could be made compared to in cases where the gender was not assigned (85.9 ± 3.3 days vs. 83.7 ± 3.9 days and P = 0.001). Of the total of 150 women who underwent ultrasound imaging in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy, the gender was identified as female in 32 (21.3%), as male in 65 (43.3%), and not assigned in 53 (35.3%); overall, gender identification was made in 64.6% of the cases. As presented in Table 1, in the 11th week of pregnancy, gender identification was made in 23 (45.1%) cases, and in the 12th week, in 74 (74.7%) cases. In the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy, a correct fetal gender identification was made in 31.32 (96.9%) of the baby girls and in 57.65 (87.7%) of the baby boys.
A total of 57 male fetuses were correctly identified as boys and 8 female fetuses were wrongly identified as boys. As for the female fetuses, 31 were correctly identified as girls, and 1 was wrongly identified as a boy [Table 2].
The positive predictive value for the ultrasound imaging gender identification was 87.6% for the male fetuses and 96.8% for the female fetuses. That is to say, reporting a male gender in the ultrasound imaging performed in the 11th or 12th weeks of pregnancy is likely to be 87.6% correct and reporting a female gender is likely to be 96.8% correct. Overall, ultrasound gender identification showed a high sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy [Table 3].
Discussion and Conclusion
The final success of fetal gender identification was about 91% in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy. When gestational age increases, the possibility of gender identification becomes larger in percentage. Operator's skills had no significant effects on gender identification in either the baby girls or boys. The results of the present study were consistent with the results of other studies in terms of the effectiveness of an increased gestational age and the ineffectiveness of gender in the correct identification of fetal gender.
The present study had a much higher gender identification accuracy compared to Whitlow's study (66%), which might be attributed to the new devices' better resolutions or the operators' skills. A study conducted by Hsiao et al. between the 11th week of pregnancy and the 13th week plus 6 days reported an overall ultrasound accuracy of 91.8%, which is almost consistent with the results of the present study. Since, in the present study, ultrasound imaging was performed in the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy, the overall accuracy obtained was very favorable (90.7%). Ultrasound accuracy was 91.3% in the 11th week of pregnancy and 90.5% in the 12th week, compared to the 71.9% and 91.9% accuracy levels obtained for Hsiao's study. Compared to Hsiao's study, the ultrasound identification accuracy obtained in the present study was significantly higher in the 11th week of pregnancy.
In 2009, Whitlow and Efrat published the very first articles about fetal gender identification in the first trimester of pregnancy. Whitlow used a combination of transverse and sagittal view planes, whereas Efrat used a mid-sagittal plane to measure the genital tubercle angle with a horizontal line drawn on the lumbosacral surface. The results obtained by Whitlow et al., Efrat, and Hsiao (who used transverse and mid-sagittal planes in 2008) showed an ultrasound fetal gender identification accuracy of 78% (35/46), 70.3% (26/37), and 71.9% (41/57) in the 11th week of pregnancy, respectively, if taking into account only cases, in which the gender has been assigned. The accuracies obtained were significantly lower than the accuracy obtained for the present study, which was 21/23 (91.3%). If all the women who underwent ultrasound imaging are taken into account regardless of the assigning or nonassigning of their fetal gender, the accuracies obtained for the cited studies will be 46% (35/76), 65% (26/40), and 42.7% (41/96), respectively, which is then comparable to the overall ultrasound accuracy obtained in the present study, that is, 45.1% (21/51).
The accuracy obtained on the 12th week of pregnancy was 90.5% (67/74) in the present study if counting only the cases where the gender has been assigned; however, if also taking into account the cases, in which the fetal gender has not been assigned, the accuracy is 67.7% (67/99), which is comparable to the accuracies obtained for other studies: 86% (123/143), 92.8% (77/83), and 92% (195/212).[11,12] Compared to the previous studies, the present study found no significant increase in fetal gender identification accuracy in the 12th week compared to in the 11th week.
Overall, various factors can affect the correct identification of fetal gender in the first trimester of pregnancy. First, the operator's skills, which depends on his or her training; second, the ultrasound imaging device's resolution (a transvaginal ultrasound provides a better resolution than a transabdominal ultrasound); third, certain maternal factors can affect the results, such as bowel gas induced shadowing of the fetus or maternal obesity; and fourth, the fetal position in the womb, which can be in different forms, including the fetal legs being crossed, umbilical cord being between the fetus' legs, fetal hyperactivity, and an unfavorable fetal position.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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Ultrasound 5 gender months
What to Expect at Your 16-Week Ultrasound
Pregnancy is an exciting time. You’re growing a little human, anxiously awaiting their arrival, and preparing for a new chapter in your life. It can be overwhelming!
One constant should be a series of predictable milestones in your prenatal care.
Specifically, ultrasounds are key moments when you can get a glimpse at your growing bundle of joy while your doctor can confirm that the pregnancy is progressing properly or pinpoint any critical issues that might need to be addressed.
Let’s take a look at what you might expect at a 16-week ultrasound.
Why you might get a 16-week ultrasound
While it’s typical to have two ultrasounds during a standard pregnancy, you may have more — whether due to your own risk factors or your doctor’s desire to more closely monitor the baby’s progress.
A 16-week ultrasound isn’t standard — but don’t let it worry you! Look at it as an opportunity to get more glimpses of baby.
Your first ultrasound will usually occur between 8 and 14 weeks to listen for a heartbeat to confirm that you’re pregnant and to estimate a due date.
Then the next ultrasound is typically between 18 and 20 weeks. This ultrasound checks for overall fetal development and is sometimes called the “anatomy scan.”
But aside from the two standard ultrasounds, your doctor may schedule additional screenings to:
- do an initial check if you missed the earlier viability ultrasound
- more closely monitor your pregnancy if you’re at high risk of certain conditions
- check for multiples if they suspect you might be carrying twins, triplets, or more
- look for fetal conditions such as heart abnormalities, Down syndrome, or spina bifida
- address any complications you may be having, such as bleeding
How the ultrasound is done
There’s nothing you need to do to prepare for the 16-week ultrasound.
This transabdominal scan relies on a transducer that moves over your abdomen to display 2D images of your developing baby. It’s noninvasive and won’t hurt you or your baby, though it may cause you some discomfort if the technician needs to press down a little harder at times.
Expect the ultrasound to take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. During the procedure, your doctor or ultrasound technician — known as a sonographer — will:
- take measurements of your baby
- check the development of their spine
- reconfirm their heartbeat
This is all to ensure that everything is developing on track.
Depending on baby’s position, you might also be asked to move or turn so the technician can get a better look at different angles.
They’ll also check for fetal movement. So, don’t be surprised if your sonographer gently pokes your abdomen to encourage your baby to move if they’re not especially active during the appointment.
What you can expect to see
During the 16-week scan, you can expect to see a baby that is fully formed but just very small. But, if their development is on track, you should still be able to see arms, legs, fingers, toes, and even facial expressions during the ultrasound.
At this stage, if you want to know (and if baby cooperates with getting in the right position), your technician can also try to determine the sex of your baby as the genitalia should be fully visible in certain positions. However, this may require later confirmation.
How big your baby should be
At 16 weeks, your baby is usually between 4 and 5 inches long and weighs around 5 ounces.
During your 16-week appointment, your physician may measure your fundal height, though this is typically done starting at 20 weeks.
This noninvasive measurement checks the distance in centimeters from the top of your baby bump to the top of your pubic bone. This confirms that your baby is growing properly.
Usually, by the time you’re in your 24th week, your fundal height is the same number as your gestational week in your pregnancy. So, if you’re 27 weeks along, it’s assumed that you would have a 27-centimeter fundal height measurement.
However, there’s a margin of error in the measuring. It’s not uncommon for the numbers not to be a perfect match between your fundal height and your gestational week, especially before the 24th week — and this also has to do with the accuracy of your due date.
Your due date is an imprecise measurement its own margin of error. If you had an ultrasound early in your pregnancy to estimate your due date, it will be more accurate.
But all this to say: Don’t panic if baby is measuring a week or so off in either direction. It’s normal.
What else the doctor may want to check for
The 16-week ultrasound, if you have one, is also a critical period where your doctor will want to check for any potential developmental abnormalities. They do this by checking movement and measurements, as we mentioned.
While the 16-week appointment is noninvasive, your physician may also recommend that blood to be drawn to run a triple or quadruple screen for potential abnormalities like neural tube problems, Down syndrome, or additional chromosomal issues that can be screened by checking your blood.
This screening usually takes place between the 15th and 20th week, but screens conducted between 16 and 18 weeks are said to be the most accurate.
If those blood tests come back with results that indicate there may be an issue, your OB may then discuss more invasive diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Or they could recommend further noninvasive prenatal testing.
While amniocentesis and CVS are incredibly effective at confirming developmental abnormalities, they also carry tiny risks that can cause complications in the pregnancy such as miscarriage. So, physicians prefer to rely on noninvasive measures — like ultrasound — for initial screening.
Determining sex via ultrasound
If you don’t want to be surprised, you can also (usually) determine your baby’s sex during the 16-week ultrasound. Because your baby’s external anatomy is fully formed, it should be accurate.
But keep in mind that depending on how your baby is positioned, your physician or ultrasound technician may not be able to get a clear reading of their anatomy to confirm the sex.
If your sonographer isn’t able to get a clear reading, or if you have doubts, you can always ask your doctor to check the baby’s sex as part of a blood screening or have a later follow-up ultrasound to confirm.
If you’re expecting twins
Just like with people carrying one child, if you’re carrying twins, you can expect the 16-week ultrasound to show your babies in full detail.
However, don’t be surprised if your scan takes significantly longer, as your technician must be extremely detailed to ensure they’re taking the right measurements and properly labeling them for each child.
At this stage, your babies should each be about the same length and size as “singletons” — the medical term for a single-baby pregnancy.
However, many OBs use a different growth chart that’s catered to twins since twins and multiples are often smaller at birth when compared to babies from single births.
Also, don’t be surprised if one twin is slightly smaller than the other, because this is very common — only a large discrepancy is considered cause for concern.
The 16-week ultrasound is often your first serious glimpse at your baby. This exciting milestone helps to ease anxiety and makes the whole pregnancy experience even more real.
While noninvasive, this ultrasound is also an important step to screen for potential developmental abnormalities and to confirm that baby is growing properly.
While not every pregnancy will include a 16-week ultrasound, at some point between the 16- and 20-week gestation period, you’ll likely complete this important step.
Are You Having a Boy or a Girl?
Whether you're ready to know your unborn baby's sex (now!) or are waiting to find out in the delivery room, chances are you have your suspicions—hunches fueled, perhaps, by well-meaning friends and family. Take, for example, first-time mom Arlene Bordinhao of Las Vegas, who was convinced she was having a girl. Folks informed her that because she was carrying high and her belly resembled a watermelon, not a basketball, it had to be a girl. The Chinese lunar calendar also predicted a girl.
Plus, Bordinhao's mother didn't see any dark circles on her neck. "In the Philippines, where I was born, no rings means a girl," she explains. Although her husband wanted to wait to find out the baby's sex, Bordinhao had to know for sure.
"Not being able to prepare for the biggest event of my life made me crazy," she admits, so she found out at 16 weeks during a routine sonogram. Surprise! "There was our little man, in all his glory," Bordinhao recalls. "We were in shock for 24 hours, but now we're thrilled. Finding out helped us prepare mentally and stock the nursery. I can't wait to meet him!"
"What Are You Having?"
That's usually the first question expectant mothers and fathers are asked. Parents-to-be can—and nearly always do!—answer it earlier than ever before, thanks to the latest imaging technology. In fact, 9 out of 10 new moms polled in our MomTrak survey knew the sex of their baby prior to labor day.
"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," explains Daniel A. Potter, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Huntington Reproductive Center Medical Group in California. "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."
Expectant parents are particularly nosy creatures: If you Google "predict baby's sex," you'll find more than 1 million results, including gender predictor kits you can buy at your local Target. Yet, if we all agree that having a healthy, happy baby is paramount, why do we care so much whether that baby is a boy or a girl?
"It's human nature," Dr. Potter says. It started in the Stone Age, he continues: "A family without sons, whose job was to hunt and keep everyone fed, might not have survived. So offerings were made to the gods, and soothsayers were consulted. People passed on to the next generation the methods they considered most effective for guaranteeing a boy, and this inspired old wives' tales."
Throughout history, gender has remained a priority. "For hundreds of years, sex determined not only your life's options but your parents' options too," says social historian Stephanie Coontz, Ph.D., author of A Strange Stirring, which tells of the struggle for gender equality in the 1960s. "It influenced how your parents treated you, what they expected of you, even if they welcomed you at all."
In many societies, not having a son was a tragedy; for the ruling elite, it was a threat to their power: "Women were killed or killed themselves if they didn't deliver a boy," she says.
Polls today reveal that Americans still have a slight preference for boys. But in this country, a baby's gender is no longer a matter of life-and-death importance. "We increasingly want the same things for our children, boys or girls," Dr. Coontz says. Still, many can't resist the siren call of knowing Baby's sex.
These days, curiosity, practicality, and peace of mind often outweigh surprise. "We felt that learning the baby's gender was a delicious moment, no matter when we found out," says Robin Rosen of Atlanta, a mom of a girl and a boy.
Some first-time parents choose to know the sex of their baby but prolong the suspense the second time around. "As a new mom, so much is completely unknown," says San Francisco mom of two Kat Eden. Finding out the baby's sex and focusing on picking a name, clothes, and decor helped Eden feel grounded during her first pregnancy. "With my second, I knew what to expect," she says. "It was exciting to wonder about the little person growing in my tummy."
Sometimes siblings factor into the decision. "My older son is a need-to-know kind of kid," says Caren Rodriguez of Greensboro, North Carolina, a mom of two boys. "Being able to tell his class about the baby was a source of pride for him."
Those who do choose to wait savor the anticipation. As Rachel Levin of New York City says, "Having the surprise to look forward to helped me get through those last, long weeks of my pregnancy."
What if you want to find out and your guy doesn't? Some parents adopt a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. One scenario: The doctor writes the sex on an index card and seals it in an envelope. The couple agrees that if either of them is bursting to know, he or she can peek.
You could also wait and see where things go. "We'd been trying to have a baby for a long time," says Sophie Beauvais of Cambridge, Massachusetts. "We were so stressed out that we stopped trying and took a vacation. Soon after we got back, I found out I was pregnant." They remained undecided about finding out until the day of the baby's 18-week ultrasound: "By then, we were so thrilled our dream was coming true that when the nurse asked if we wanted to know, we both blurted, 'Yes!' It just felt right."
Dealing with Disappointment
What if you've been envisioning tutus and tea parties, only to find out you're having a boy? Or your husband has a deep desire for a boy, but you're getting a girl? You may be bummed out, and that's okay.
"It's normal to feel let down," says Sara Rosenquist, Ph.D., author of After the Stork. Feeling guilty about your negative emotions can add to the anxiety stew. Talk with your partner, a close family member, or friend. "Pretending you're not upset keeps negative feelings simmering and can intensify the sadness," Dr. Rosenquist adds. It's best to work through any regrets now, before sleep deprivation and other realities of having a newborn compound your sadness.
Kerstin Armstrong of Atlanta, a mom of three girls, always pictured herself with boys and needed time to accept that she'd never have a son. "But wishing for a boy doesn't mean I love my girls any less!" she says.
Armstrong's husband, Scott, feels similarly. "I was hoping for a boy with each pregnancy, and a part of me will always long for a son," he admits. "But Kerstin once told me something that still resonates: 'Everything our daughters know about boys will come from you.' I consider it a privilege to be their vision of what a man should be."
Boy vs. Girl
- Baby girls feel discomfort more acutely than boys do, so they're more likely to fuss when they get cold or have a wet diaper. But don't be too quick to label your little princess high-maintenance; her keener sense of touch also makes her more responsive to cuddling and easier to soothe.
- Girls tend to produce more oxytocin, the human-bonding hormone, and serotonin, a "feel-good" hormone. This helps explain why they're more apt to be caregivers to dolls and younger siblings. Little boys really are more interested in toy cars, trucks, and other things that move.
- "Boys tend to explore their world more physically than girls do, such as by banging their toys, jumping, and playing rough. "They have an unrestrained way of expressing energy," says Adie Goldberg, co-author of It's a Baby Boy! and It's a Baby Girl! Play is calmer among girls, who tend to stay closer to adults, engage in fantasy, and hang out in small groups, whereas boys gravitate toward packs of playmates and intense, active games.
- Baby girls are five times more likely than boys are to get hemangiomas, raised red birthmarks caused by a buildup of blood vessels. They usually disappear by age 9 but can be treated with steroids or removed by lasers.
- Baby boys are at higher risk for hernias. That's because when they're in utero, their testicles descend from the abdomen, which can leave a cavity in the groin that requires surgery to repair.
- Baby girls are four times more susceptible to hip dysplasia, a dislocation of the thighbone from the hip socket. Braces can usually remedy the condition.
- Boys more often have asthma, yet they're more likely than girls to outgrow it by adolescence. One possible explanation: Higher testosterone levels might relax airway muscles.
- Girls are more prone to UTIs. Their urinary tract is shorter, so it's easier for bacteria to reach their bladder and cause an infection
- Boys often have stronger motor skills—think jumping and climbing. They might also master tasks like aiming a throw and building block towers at a younger age than their girl peers do, probably because the area of a boy's brain that's devoted to visual-spatial relation is larger. But...
- ...Girls can kick serious butt when it comes to fine motor skills: They pick up finger foods earlier on and, when they're older, learn to write and tie shoes sooner.
- Girls generally are toilet-trained earlier than boys are. They typically master the potty at about 35 months, whereas boys tend to start using the potty at around 39 months. There are loads of theories as to why girls get a head start. One popular explanation: Mommy's "plumbing" is the same as her daughter's, and she often does most of the teaching.
- Boys are late growers: They usually don't reach 50 percent of their adult height until about 24 months; girls can reach that mark at only 20 months. Boys also enter puberty roughly two years later than girls do and tend to continue shooting up for three more years.
- Girls talk it up earlier than boys do, thanks to their more efficient use of the language centers in both hemispheres of the brain. At 18 months or so, a girl's vocabulary consists of about 90 words, compared with 40 words for most toddler boys. But by age 3, boys are usually just as skilled in the gift of gab.
What It's Like to Have All of One Kind
"After we found out we were having our fourth boy, I burst into tears. My husband patted my arm and said, 'It's okay, honey. It's not your fault.' We both had wanted a girl very much, but we quickly got used to the idea of raising little boys who operate on only two speeds—running and sleeping—and who have a pack mentality. One night they got together and rigged up a rocket launcher. The rockets? My tampons. Try explaining to your neighbor why her Lexus is covered in feminine-hygiene products! It's been wild, crazy, and loud, but we wouldn't have it any other way." — Ariel Lawhon; Wichita Falls, Texas
"We have two girls, ages 5 and 3, and I love sharing the things that were important to me as a child, like Little House on the Prairie and the Ramona books. Just know this: There will always be glitter all over everything in your house. Resistance to princesses is futile." — Kristin Mahoney; South Orange, New Jersey
"Having four boys keeps it simple—with each baby we already had the clothes, toys, and how-to-raise boys books. I've researched soccer teams and baseball leagues and have a stable of other boy moms to call on. What's truly wonderful is that if I didn't have so many boys, I wouldn't have known how different from one another they could be." — Annie Drexler, Atlanta
"As the mother of three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1, and as a total girly girl myself, I truly enjoy all my daughters' dress-up, makeup, ballet, and pretend play. My husband loves being the only man in the house. That said, it can often be an emotional roller coaster. If they spot a bug, cover your ears because the sound can be deafening! If they scrape a knee, you'd think the leg was broken, their reaction is so dramatic." — Andrea Miller; Sienna Plantation, Texas
Do Gender Prediction Kits Actually Work?
Instead of waiting for a sonogram, some preggo parents are finding out at home.
A slew of gender prediction kits has sprung up at drugstores in recent years, and some claim to accurately predict a baby's gender as early as five to seven weeks into a pregnancy. Peeing in a cup or pricking your finger and sending a blood sample to a lab for DNA testing is easy enough, but these aren't surefire methods.
Among the kits, urine tests, which check for the presence of testosterone as early as ten weeks, are the least expensive and also the least accurate. Kits that use a blood sample to detect gender are imprecise as well (your bathroom isn't a quality-controlled lab!) and pricey (often upward of $300). If you have more money than patience, you may want to try one, but don't paint the nursery till you get a sonogram!
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