Finding Out Your Baby’s Sex Has Its Advantages

Many parents want time to plan; a few opt for surprise
Nicole and family

Grandparents want to know. Aunts-to-be usually ask. The question is: Do you want to know your baby’s sex before it’s born?

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Some women like finding out. Others want to be surprised.

Parents’ choice

“It’s a personal choice,” says OB/GYN Rebecca Starck, MD, Department Chair, Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic. “At 18 to 20 weeks, a pregnant woman usually gets an ultrasound and most of the time we’re able to determine the baby’s sex. If the mom wants to find out, she can. Rarely is there a medical reason to know the sex — unless someone has a genetic or chromosomal concern.”

For instance, with higher-risk pregnancies, doctors test women as early as their ninth week. The prenatal screenings reveal not only chromosomal/genetic anomalies — Down syndrome, sex chromosome abnormalities and inheritable genetic conditions — but also the sex of the baby.

Bonding early with baby

Nicole Herbst likes to plan ahead. She decided to find out whether she was having a girl or a boy before delivery. She had struggled with unexplained infertility and suffered several miscarriages. A doctor referred Ms. Herbst for a non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), a procedure that analyzes the baby’s DNA through the mother’s blood.

“We were asked during the prenatal testing if we wanted to know the baby’s sex,” Ms. Herbst says. “My husband, Rob, and I decided that we did. It’s helping us — especially me — to bond with her.”

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What’s in a name?

For the Herbsts, one of the biggest benefits of finding out their baby’s sex in advance was choosing her name early on.

“By giving our baby a name, she is more real to us,” says Herbst, who planned to deliver her daughter at Fairview Hospital. “But not everyone feels that way. In our birthing class, there were one or two couples — out of about 15 — who didn’t want to know.”

Focus on the future

Dr. Starck says choosing a name is one reason expectant parents give for wanting to know their baby’s sex ahead of time. Other reasons include:

  • To reduce stress: Labor, delivery and recovery can be stressful enough for first-time moms and their labor coaches. Some people prefer being excited about the baby’s sex earlier in the pregnancy.
  • To make health decisions: Parents who are expecting sons can have private, family discussions about procedures such as circumcision. Doctors often perform circumcisions in the hospital within the first 48 hours of birth.
  • To prepare siblings: Your older child needs time to react to the idea of a new brother or sister. Some parents help their older children adjust by referring to the new baby as “he” or “she,” participating in activities to involve older children and ensuring their other kids have time to talk about the newborn.
  • To plan ahead: Parents like to decorate the nursery, which involves furniture, accessories and toy shopping. If you know the sex, you can go all out with the blue or pink color palette, and the planes-and-trains decorative theme or the flower-and-rainbow embellishments.

During prenatal testing, the Herbsts learned they were having a girl. Nicole delivered their daughter, Violet, by cesarean section on March 4, 2014.

If you do decide to find out your baby’s sex ahead of time, be sure to tell the grandparents and aunts-to-be. Chances are, they’re planning ahead, too.

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