Learn how and when you’ll find out the gender of your new arrival.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
The most exciting part after discovering you’re pregnant is finding out the gender of the baby. A prince or princess? While some would prefer to keep it a surprise until birth, most parents can’t wait until labour day. Our experts give their take on this.
For a start, it’s best to know when the baby’s genitals start to form in the womb. According to Dr Tony Tan, OBGYN specialist and consultant in Raffles Women’s Centre, the genital tubercle is present as early as seven weeks in a foetus. In a female foetus, it becomes the clitoris. In a male foetus, it becomes the penis at about eight to 12 weeks.
Tests for Gender
Dr Christopher Ng, OBGYN at GynaeMD Women’s & Rejuvenation Clinic at Camden Medical Centre shares that the soonest one can determine the gender of the foetus is around 14 weeks into your pregnancy or 12 weeks after conception. The sex of the baby can be seen on ultrasound scan provided the baby is cooperative and willing to “show”. If it is a male foetus, it is usually quite obvious. Dr Christopher Chong, OBGYN at Gleneagles Hospital, adds that the accuracy of the ultrasound scan depends on the machine, the person scanning, the mother's habitus (e.g. obesity) and also foetal position. This method is non-invasive and painless. The cost varies depending on the complexity of the scan, which can be up to $400 for a foetal abnormality scan at 20 weeks. Dr Tan claims that ultrasound scans have been able to predict the sex of the foetus with 80 per cent accuracy.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT)
Nowadays, the newer prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening, also known as non-invasive prenatal (NIPT e.g. Panorama or Harmony) testing, is a method to screen for certain chromosomal abnormalities in a developing baby, says Dr Ng. It can be performed as early as nine weeks into your pregnancy and the results will be out within seven to 10 working days.
During pregnancy, some DNA from the baby crosses into the mother’s bloodstream.
It is this DNA that is tested for chromosomal abnormalities and as well as the gender of the foetus.
It involves only a simple blood test and is 99 per cent predictive of the gender.
Dr Chong mentions that there is no need for fasting and the NIPT will set you back to about $800 for a basic one to up to $2,000 depending on the type of test. The blood samples are usually sent to the US for testing.
Amniocentesis/Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
According to Dr Chong, the amniocentesis and CVS are both invasive tests and have a risk of a miscarriage of 0.5 per cent to up to 2.0 per cent. These tests are conducted mostly for the screening of chromosome abnormality but it can also tell the gender at an accuracy of 99 per cent at the same time. These tests are the ‘gold standard’ chromosome test for most doctors but they are invasive and come with the risk of miscarriage. It will be done under ultrasound guidance to take amniotic fluid or placental tissues. It is best to discuss with your OBGYN whether these tests are necessary for your circumstances. Like the NIPT, it requires no fasting beforehand. The cost varies – in the region of $2,000.
So which should you choose? Between the ultrasound and NIPT, Dr Tan states that the results by an ultrasound scan done at 16 weeks or more are closer to 100 per cent accuracy if performed by a good sonographer compared to NIPT which is usually 99 per cent accurate.
To Know or Not to Know?
Dr Ng shares that it is hard enough thinking of male and female names for the baby so if you already know the gender then perhaps your “problem” is halved. Sometimes, family and friends may want to buy some gifts for the unborn baby so knowing the gender will make things easier (as most of the baby clothes and gifts tend to be gender specific).
Dr Tan affirms that the advantages of knowing the gender early allow bonding between
parents and the baby, and for parents to start preparing the name and clothes.
Rarely, it may be useful if the mother carries a sex-linked recessive condition, which may show up as a severe disease if the foetus is a boy who inherits that gene. In such scenarios, it may be useful for parents to know early about the gender of the foetus.
If you are wondering if there are less expensive yet pretty accurate ways to predict the gender of your bundle of joy, all the experts concur that there is none, zilch. Usually, these are old wives’ tales and it is still only a 50-50 per cent chance correct. Dr Tan is well aware that some patients read on the internet that the foetal heart rate allows prediction of the foetal sex. However, there is a great overlap between the normal range of foetal heart rate for male and female foetuses. Hence, the foetal heart rate is not useful to know the gender of the foetus, advises Dr Tan.
So to know or not to know? The choice is entirely up to you. Here’s to a happy and healthy pregnancy!