When Can You Tell the Sex of Babies?

Julie Kirk
3D ultrasound of a developing fetus

Most expectant parents are anxious to know the sex of their baby. Today, there are a number of different methods to accurately determine if you're having a boy or a girl, and you can even find out as early as the first trimester.

Ways to Find Out the Gender of Your Baby

With the help of your OB/GYN doctor, you will be able to find out if you are expecting a boy or a girl. The following are the different ways gender can be determined, which include the following.

Ultrasound

The most common way parents find out the gender of their baby is with ultrasound. Typically, you will have your anatomy scan at 18 to 20 weeks gestation. This diagnostic ultrasound exam is performed primarily to assess the baby for any abnormalities, to check the baby's growth, and to evaluate additional structures such as placenta, amniotic fluid, and cervix. This is also the best time to see gender. A boy will already look like a 'boy,' and the sonographer will be able to identify the scrotum and the penis. A girl is determined by three bright lines, which is the labia. Keep in mind ultrasound is never 100% in determining gender, but it is pretty accurate at about 95%.

There are times when your baby may not cooperate. The legs may be crossed, the umbilical cord may drape between the legs, or the genitalia may be ambiguous (not clearly male or female). Most times, the sonographer will try to move the baby in order to get a better look, however, there are those rare instances when the baby will not move, and you may need to wait until your next ultrasound to find out the gender.

Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)

The NIPT is a blood test that analyzes the DNA of mother and baby. This screening test indicates if there is an increased risk for certain chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21). The sex of your baby can also be determined by the NIPT and can be done as early as 10 weeks gestation. It has a 99% accuracy rate. The NIPT is a simple blood draw, and there are no risks, such as miscarriage, to your baby.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

Chorionic Villus Sampling is an invasive procedure that is performed at around 10 to 13 weeks gestation. Under ultrasound guidance, the doctor inserts a needle vaginally or abdominally to remove placenta tissue to be tested for chromosomal abnormalities. The sex of the baby can also be determined by this test with a nearly 100% accuracy rate. It is important to note that there is a small risk of miscarriage with CVS.

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is an invasive procedure that is performed after 15 weeks gestational age. A needle is inserted through the mother's abdomen under ultrasound guidance. A sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby is taken from the gestational sac and tested for chromosomal abnormalities. The baby's gender can be determined with this procedure and is nearly 100% accurate. There is also a small risk of miscarriage, fetal injury, and leaking amniotic fluid due to an amniocentesis.

Birth

Most parents want to know the sex of the baby as soon as possible so they can plan their gender reveal parties or because they simply can't wait. However, there are also some parents that prefer to be surprised and choose to wait until birth to find out if their baby is a boy or girl. Then there are those parents who have no choice if their baby is less than cooperative during their ultrasound, or they may even feel skeptical about prenatal testing for gender. Regardless the situation, if you wait until delivery, this is obviously the most accurate way to find out the gender of your baby.

Deciding to Wait Until You Deliver

If you have decided to wait until the birth of your baby or are worried the test may be wrong, you can still have fun buying things for your little one's impending arrival.

Unisex Neutral Colors

Yellow and green are traditional neutral colors for either a girl or boy. However, there are far more fun, neutral colors to choose from such as orange, red, teal, brown, grey, black, and white. There is a wide variety of unisex baby items to choose from, and you will have no trouble finding these colors in stores or online, especially if you're looking for gifts for a baby shower.

Keep Your Receipts

Another option for you is if you find an item that is a 'must-have' for your baby or it's on sale, you can purchase the item in both the boy and girl versions. Make sure you get a gift receipt or keep the original receipt. You also need to check with the store's return policy if you buy the items far in advance of the baby's birth. Not all stores will return your money after a certain amount of time.

Go Shopping

The third option is to wait to hit the stores after the baby is born but keep in mind that you will need certain necessities to get by until you feel up to shopping. Every delivery is different with some woman recovering quickly while others take a week or more.

Buying the Correct Size

Another benefit of waiting for birth is that you will know what size clothes to purchase for your baby. Some babies are born early, needing preemie clothing, and others are born later and bigger and will need clothes in larger sizes. Some people find that newborn clothing don't fit their baby or they won't fit them for long, so they need size 0-3 right away. Waiting until birth will save you time and money because you will know exactly what you need.

Preparing for Your Baby

The key reason you may want to know the gender of your baby is so you can prepare ahead of time for your little one's arrival. It's understandable that you would simply want the peace of mind of having everything ready when you bring your baby boy or girl home.

When Can You Tell the Sex of Babies?