The right time to find out the sex of the baby

“When can we find out the sex of our baby” is one of the popular questions doctors get from expecting parents. Some ask out of curiosity and for some, for medical reasons. Although around 7 weeks, the male and female sex organs begin to develop, however, at this stage, their genitals look alike. For parents who choose to know the sex of their child beforehand, they could get this information through a regular ultrasound appointment mid pregnancy, usually done between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, because at this stage, the baby would have developed sex organs with distinct features, allowing the doctor to identify from a scan the presence of a penis or a vulva.

Reasons why parents-to-be might choose to know the sex of their baby ahead

A. Finding a suitable name for the child - Parents-to-be may decide to know the sex of their child before delivery to help them pick a name. Naming a baby is an important part of having a newborn and for many cultures, especially in Africa, it is a ceremony that involves family and friends, like the Africa proverb says, “It might take two to conceive a child but it takes a village to raise one". In fact, for the Yoruba people of Nigeria, at the naming ceremony, which is known as ”Iso Omo Loruko”, anybody present at the event can give a name to the new born. After prayers and blessings by the religious head present, a bowl is set on the table where the parents of the infant are seated; anyone who wants to give the newborn a name says a prayer, drops money in the bowl and says the name s/he wishes to give the newborn. A person is assigned to note down the names given to the baby.

B. A head start for baby kit shopping - Knowing the sex of the baby will help in deciding what type of baby clothes to be bought in accordance with the sex of the baby.

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C. Plain old curiosity - Parent's to be might just want to know the sex of their unborn child out of curiosity or just for the sake of knowing.

D. Medical reasons - Pregnant women can be tested as early as 7 weeks for sex chromosome abnormalities and for inheritable genetic conditions.

E. Desire for one sex over the other - In a situation where one sex is preferred over the other, parents may be anxious to know they'd be having a boy or girl. This is a motivating factor for finding the sex of the baby early.

F. To facilitate early bonding - Like most relationships, the more knowledge you have about your baby, the closer and emotionally attached you'd feel to your child before birth.

Ways in which the sex of a baby can be determined

I. Ultra Sound Imagery or Sonogram

The use of ultra sound as a means of sex prediction is a noninvasive, safe and painless procedure that uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. This method of gender identification is most accurate between 18 - 22 months when the baby’s sex organs have developed distinctive features which can be distinguished by the technician from a scan by identifying the penis or vulva.

II. Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a procedure in which amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds and protects the baby during pregnancy) is extracted from the uterus for testing or treatment. Ultrasound is used to guide the needle, to avoid harming the baby. The needle is then used to draw up amniotic fluid. This fluid contains fetal cells and various proteins. Although it is considered as one of the most accurate ways to determine gender before delivery, the procedure is rarely done for the single purpose gender identification because of the risks involved. Amniocentesis is usually offered by the doctor when the test results from the procedure might have a significant impact on management of the pregnancy. However, consent to the procedure still lies in the hands of the parent-to-be.

III. Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

NIPT is a method primarily used to determine the level of risk a fetus has of being born with certain genetic abnormalities. Basically, it is used to look for chromosomal disorders that are caused by the presence of an extra or missing copy of a chromosome. When this procedure is used in determining the sex of an unborn child, it involves the testing of the mother’s blood for the presence of the Y chromosome DNA. The Y chromosome is one of the two sex chromosomes in the human DNA and the other is the X chromosome. While males have Y and X chromosomes present in their DNA, females have only the X chromosome present. In other words, if the Y chromosome DNA is not detected, the fetus is considered to be female. And if the Y chromosome is detected, it means the fetus is a boy.

IV. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

CVS is like Amniocentesis, it is an invasive procedure used for gender determination. Because of the risks that come with invasive procedures, CVS is only offered by the doctor when the test results might have a significant impact on management of the pregnancy; hence it is rarely utilized for the sole purpose of determining the sex of a fetus. CVS involves taking a sample of tissue from the placenta and testing the tissue sample for chromosomal abnormalities. When utilizing this procedure for sex determination, the tissue sample may also be used to determine if the fetus has the XX chromosomes (a girl) or XY chromosomes (a boy).

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