Is it a boy or a girl?

To find out ahead of time or wait ’til your baby is born: That is the question

Once the news breaks that you’re expecting, you can prepare to hear one question repeated from friends, family and complete strangers: “What are you having?” It can be tricky to decide if you want the thrill of the surprise or the satisfaction of finding out your baby’s gender ahead of time. How to choose?

Advice from other parents

When Lauren Ferranti-Ballem of Toronto was expecting her first child, her first inclination was to find out the baby’s sex so that she could get into prep mode. However, her husband was adamant about waiting and, eventually, she agreed, which she now thinks was the right call. “Once our baby was delivered, a nurse scurried around the table to whisper in Scott’s ear so that he could tell me, ‘We have a girl.’ It was exactly the moment we were waiting for.”

Some parents, on the other hand, genuinely enjoy the planning aspect of preparing for a new baby. Michaela Conacher, of Turtleford, Sask., is an organizational wizard, and her approach to pregnancy was no exception. “I wanted to plan in terms of clothing, decor and names. Plus, I was just too impatient.” Su Grant, in Toronto, is also firmly in the finding-out-early camp. She found out as soon as she could that she was having a son, and plans to do the same next time: “Why the big secret?”

If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on the issue and you’re planning on having a second child, you could make a deal to try it both ways. Many couples wait with their first baby, but decide to find out with the second. Why? Katie Piasta of Vancouver had practical reasons on her mind. “I had a boy first and, with my second, I wanted to know if I could get rid of all the boy clothing and shop for pretty girl stuff.” (As it turned out, she got her chance.) Including your first-born in your second pregnancy may also be a consideration. Voula McLaughlin of Toronto was delighted to wait with her first-born, but says she would probably find out next time. “Since our daughter is four now, we’d love for her to be part of the next pregnancy and prepare her for a little brother or sister.”

Talk to your doctor

Whatever route you decide to take, you’ll have to let your doctor and other medical professionals in on your plan. Vyta Senikas, an Ottawa-based OB/GYN and associate executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, says there are a couple of key opportunities to find out your baby’s sex. “The first time that many mothers have an ultrasound is between 11 and 13 weeks, to check for nuchal translucency, so you may want to come to a decision by then.” However, if you’re not sure at that point, you can always hold on and wait for the second trimester scan, which is typically done at the 18 to 20 week mark.

Most ultrasound technicians will ask right away if you want to know the sex of the baby (if you want to make extra-sure that someone doesn’t accidentally blurt it out, you can request that it doesn’t get recorded in your file). If you’re undergoing other testing, such as CVS or amniocentesis, those procedures will provide additional opportunities to ask about your baby’s sex.

And just how accurate are these predictions, anyway? That ultrasound photo may look like a black and white blur to you, but Senikas says that these days, ultrasound predictions are nearly 99 percent accurate. “The prediction of a boy is even more accurate because the technician can clearly see the penis, whereas if they predict a girl, there’s a small chance they could be missing it,” she says. “However, even that mistake is extremely rare with the technology available today.” In other words, you can buy all the blue, pink, orange and purple clothing you want, but you may still want to hold off on those monogrammed keepsakes until after the delivery date.

Gender myths during pregnancy

Folk methods to predict your baby’s sex provide instant baby shower entertainment, but there’s little evidence behind them (and, yes, scientists have tried).

Carrying If you’re carrying low, you’re pregnant with a boy, and if you’re carrying high, you’ve got a girl on the way.

Morning sickness Traditionally, serious morning sickness predicts a son. In fact, women with severe nausea are a bit more likely to have a girl.

Baby divining Someone holds your wedding ring (or a needle) on a thread over your belly. If it goes in circles, you’re having a girl. Back and forth like a pendulum means a boy.

Cravings If you’ve got candy on the brain, you must be having a girl, while visions of Kettle Chips mean a boy. Someone’s taking “sugar and spice and everything nice” a little too literally here.

Drano Do we really need experts to tell us that mixing your urine with plumbing chemicals will not tell you what you’re having and may, in fact, expose you to some dangerous fumes?

Heart rate People used to think that the fetal heart rate was higher for girls than for boys. Sorry — scientists now know that the heart rate rises in girls only
during labour.

Intuition The most accurate way to guess a child’s sex is actually your own gut feeling. One study found that when mothers used their own feelings and dreams to guess the sex of their baby, they had a 71 percent success rate!