Facts and Myths About Predicting the Sex of Your Baby

After you see a positive pregnancy test result, one of the first questions on your mind will likely be when you will be due to give birth. You'll also likely start to get excited wondering whether your baby will be born a boy or a girl.

Imagining the sex of your baby is a way to bond with your little one before they arrive. Friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers will also be curious.

You'll probably get asked, “Do you know what you’re having?” on a regular basis. If you answer no, the follow-up inquiry is usually “Are you going to find out?”

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True or False – 7 Myths About Predicting the Sex of Your Baby

In some cases, knowing the sex of your unborn baby has medical purposes, such as if genetic diseases that are gender-specific run in your family.

It's not uncommon for curious parents-to-be to start scouring for ways to predict the sex of their baby long before it can be confirmed at a prenatal visit.

The search for answers (especially quick and easy ones!) takes expectant parents down a rabbit hole of myths and legends. Sources from your great-grandmother to the Internet offer "old wives' tales" about how you tell if you're having a boy or a girl.

While some “theories” sound scientific and may even appear to be legitimate, most lack any hard evidence.

Parents usually find that these "tips and tricks" are, at most, a source of entertainment (as long as they're safe for mom and baby-to-be).

Don't despair if your grandmother's wisdom turns out to be little more than a good guess. Science has produced many safe, medically sound, and accurate methods to determine the sex of a fetus during pregnancy.

Here’s everything you need to know about predicting the sex of your baby—the myths and the facts. 

ways to predict sex of your baby
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Finding Out vs Waiting

One of the first decisions you'll make as a new parent happens before your baby even arrives. A 2017 study of parents-to-be in Sweden found that 57% of couples surveyed wanted to know the sex of their baby before birth.

Finding out whether you're having a boy or a girl is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong, but each decision has pros and cons.

Reasons to Find Out

Here are some common reasons parents want to know the sex of their baby before birth.

Early Bonding

Many new parents want to start bonding with their newborn before the baby even arrives. Knowing more about your little one before you meet them for the first time can help you feel closer to them in those first moments and days after they are born.

Curiosity

Sometimes, parents are just not comfortable with the 9-month wait for an answer to a big question about their baby. Your personality can play a role in your decision to find out if you're having a boy or girl—some people simply don't like surprises.

On the other hand, you and your partner might decide that waiting until your baby is born to know their sex is all part of the experience.

Names

Nine months can be a long wait to find out the sex of a future child for parents who have a strong hope one way or the other. This is especially true if you're planning to use a family name or have baby names picked out that have special meaning.

While names can definitely be flexible and aren't strictly specific to one sex or the other, some families cherish the experience of "passing down" a name from generation to generation.

Shopping and Registries

If you are partial to gender-specific themes or colors for nursery items and baby clothes, you'll likely want to know the sex of your baby in advance.

Party Planning

"Gender reveal parties" or announcements during baby showers are a popular way to share the news with your friends and loved ones.

Of course, the essential ingredient to these activities is knowing the sex of your baby while you're in the party planning stage.

Medical Decision-Making

Determining the sex of a baby can be part of the prenatal monitoring for congenital diseases that are more prevalent in one sex or the other.

However, it's unusual for only the sex of the fetus to be determined; usually, more specific genetic testing is also done.

Reasons to Wait

Not every parent wants to know the sex of their baby. It can also be that one parent wants to know, but the other doesn’t. Here are some common reasons why parents prefer to wait until a baby is born to find out the sex.

Surprise

For some parents, the desire to be surprised at the birth is stronger than the curiosity to find out during the pregnancy. 

Avoiding Disappointment

Gender disappointment is a real experience for many parents. Sometimes, parents with a strong preference want to find out the baby's sex as soon as possible to alleviate any anxiety about wondering.

Others decide to delay finding out because they feel it will be harder to be disappointed about the sex of their new baby on their birthday because there will be so much joy and excitement.

Religious and Cultural Beliefs

In some cultures, it's believed to be bad luck to find out the sex of a baby before birth. For others, religious beliefs explain that knowing a baby's sex prior to birth interferes with God’s plan.

In some families, strong traditional customs encourage parents to keep the sex of a new baby a surprise until birth.

No Interest in Gender Stereotypes

Gone are the days when it's expected that boys must wear blue and girls must wear pink. Many parents today don't subscribe to traditional gender stereotypes when it comes to decorating a nursery, picking names, or buying baby clothes.

They may encourage their friends and family to go for more neutral colors when choosing gifts. One way to ensure loved ones stick to gender-neutral items is to keep the sex of the baby a secret.

Possible Risks

There’s no objectively right or wrong answer to whether you should find out the sex of your baby before birth.

However, there are some personal and practical pros and cons to whatever decision you make. Here are some of the potential downsides.

Gender Disappointment

If a parent desperately wants a baby girl and finds out that they're having a boy (or vice versa) they can feel sadness, disappointment, and even grief.

These feelings, sometimes called "gender disappointment," are experienced by many parents—however, many people who are upset by the sex of their child keep their heartbreak quiet.

A parent experiencing gender disappointment may be ashamed. They may feel as though they should be perfectly happy with a baby of either sex as long as the baby is healthy.

Every parent wants a healthy baby, but many parents also want a baby who will fulfill certain ideas they have for success in life. In some cases, these hopes might align with a preference for one sex over the other.

It's normal to have dreams for your baby, even if you don’t voice them out loud. You might hope that your child will be of highly intelligent, good-looking, outgoing, or an above-averagely decent human being.

Sometimes, parents with a strong preference for one sex over the other decide to wait and find out on the day their baby is born. The logic of the choice is often that the excitement of the day will overwhelm any feeling of letdown they feel.

However, keep in mind that it's still possible to experience gender disappointment even if you wait until the day they are born to learn the sex of your child.

One advantage of finding out the sex sooner rather than later is that you'll have time to work through your feelings with a counselor before your baby arrives.

Sex Misidentification

Mistakes are rare, but they do happen. One study found that in 1 out of 100 cases, the sex of a fetus is misidentified during an ultrasound past 14 weeks.

Other studies have found the occurrence of mistakes is even less than 1% of the time. The odds of a mistake increases if the genitals are malformed by congenital anomalies.

Ultrasounds during the first trimester are more likely to produce mistaken sex identification than ultrasounds in the second or third trimester.

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, an ultrasound technician can accurately determine the sex of a fetus about three out of four times.

Sex Prediction Methods

There are many ways to predict the sex of an unborn baby, but some are more reliable than others. Here's a brief overview of the common techniques used to determine the sex of a baby.

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is one of the most accurate methods (nearly 100%) of determining fetal sex. However, it is rarely done for the sole purpose of predicting sex because there are risks associated with the procedure.

During an amniocentesis (amnio for short), a needle is carefully inserted through the abdomen and the uterus until it reaches the amniotic sac.

From there, an ultrasound is used to guide the needle as it draws up amniotic fluid without harming the fetus.

Amniotic fluid contains a fetus's genetic material. Chromosomal analysis of the fluid can be used to detect certain genetic diseases as well as to determine the sex of the fetus (XX chromosomes for a girl and XY for a boy).

In rare cases of certain genetic disorders, the sex chromosomes of a fetus are atypical. For example, XXY in Klinefelter syndrome or XO in Turner’s Syndrome.

Amniocentesis is usually performed because there is a known risk of or concern for genetic anomalies.

For example, it may be done if the mother is age 35 or older, prior testing indicated increased risk, or if there is a family history of a specific hereditary disease.

If you will need to have an amniocentesis for medical reasons, you can ask if sex determination will be possible when you have the test. However, it's important to know that amniocentesis does carry a small risk of infection and miscarriage.

In a review of previous studies conducted in 2018, researchers found there was a .35% risk of miscarriage following amniocentesis.

The risk is dependent on both the skill of the technician and when in pregnancy the procedure is done. In general, the earlier in the pregnancy, the greater the risk of pregnancy loss.

There is also a very small risk that the needle will harm the fetus in utero. However, there are specific and tested procedures provided to all practitioners to reduce risk during the procedure.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is another reliable method of sex prediction, with near 100% accuracy.

However, like amniocentesis, it is invasive and comes with medical risk, so it is not usually performed solely to determine the sex of a fetus.

CVS uses a sample of tissue taken from the placenta—specifically, the hairy-like projections of the placental tissue called villi.

The tissue can be tested for chromosomal abnormalities and used to determine if the baby's chromosomes are XX (a girl) or XY (a boy).

CVS carries risks, including the rare possibility of infection and an increased risk of pregnancy loss (reported to be 1.9% overall).

Similar to amnio, CVS is never done only to tell if a baby is a boy or a girl. However, if parents will undergo testing for genetic disease screening purposes, it is possible to request sex prediction as well.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a low-risk method of detecting the risk of certain chromosomal abnormalities.

The relatively new prenatal test looks for DNA strands that are free-floating in the bloodstream (cell-free DNA or cfDNA).

Everyone has their own cfDNA, but a pregnant woman also has the cfDNA of her unborn child. Fetal cfDNA comes from the placenta, which is almost genetically identical to the fetus. 

NIPT is primarily used to screen for the risk of congenital diseases.

If the test determines a fetus is at increased risk, more invasive testing (such as CVS or amniocentesis) can be performed to diagnose a specific condition.

NIPT can also be used to determine the sex of a fetus by looking for Y-chromosome cell-free DNA fragments.

If Y-chromosome cfDNA is present, it most likely indicates a boy. If no Y-chromosome cfDNA is present, it's assumed the baby is most likely a girl.

While NIPT is highly accurate in theory, it's still a new test. The rate of accuracy in practice is more difficult to assess.

Factors that can affect the accuracy of the test's results include:

  • When the test is performed (the earlier in pregnancy the test is done, the less accurate it is)
  • Quality of the blood sample
  • Detection of possibly undiagnosed genetic conditions in the mother

Some studies have indicated that when the NIPT test is completed after 8 weeks' gestation, the accuracy is nearly 100% for sex determination.

The test's near 100% accurate does not include situations when test results are determined to be inconclusive.

A 2014 study concluded that between 10% and 20% of NIPT samples come back with “inconclusive” results. That means that for every 10 women who have the test, 1 or 2 of them won’t get any results.  

If you're pregnant with multiples, NIPT testing can be used to determine if you are having only girls or at least one boy.

However, the test cannot determine how many boys you are having. The test can only indicate that there is at least one boy, or that there are no boys.

Traditional Ultrasound

Learning whether you’re having a boy or girl during the second-trimester ultrasound is the most popular and well-known method of sex prediction.

The routine ultrasound is typically performed between 18 weeks and 22 weeks of pregnancy. It's intended to be a screening method to help your doctor ensure all is well with your baby's health and development.

It's also possible for the technician to see (with near 100% accuracy) whether you’re having a boy or a girl.

During an ultrasound, the technician is trained to look for the “hamburger” sign indicating female genitalia. In the case of a male fetus, the penis may be clearly visible.

Let the ultrasound technician know whether you do or do not want to know the sex of your baby before the scan begins.

You can also have them write it down on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope for you to open later. This is especially useful if only one parent can be present at an appointment or if only one parent wants to know the baby's sex.

If you're planning to share the surprise at a gender reveal party, hand off the results to a friend or professional event planner, the baker making a color-reveal cake, or the florist packing flowers or balloons for your party.

While ultrasound poses very little risk to pregnant women and their unborn babies, ultrasound exposure isn’t completely risk-free. Repeated or prolonged exposure may be harmful—especially when performed by inexperienced technicians.

Fetal Sex Ultrasound Mistakes

While it's unlikely, sex predictions made by a qualified ultrasound technician can be wrong. Here are a few situations that make a mistake more likely.

  • The ultrasound was done during the first trimester. While it is possible to look for and even see fetal sex signs prior to 14 weeks' gestation, mistakes are more likely during this time.
  • There are genital anomalies. Congenital anomalies of the reproductive organs can make sex determination tricky or, in some cases, impossible. 
  • The genitalia is hidden. Hidden or mistaken genitals are more likely when ultrasounds are done early in pregnancy. A fetus that appears to be a girl may, in fact, be a boy whose penis is “hiding” or not clearly visible. The position of the uterus and the baby can also make the genitalia unclear. Mistakes are unlikely beyond 18 weeks' gestation, occurring in fewer than 1% of cases.
  • The ultrasound tech is inexperienced. Sometimes, a mistake is made not because of the limitations of technology, but the inexperience of the person interpreting what they can (or cannot) see. The experience and skill of an ultrasound tech can easily affect the accuracy of sex determination.

How Accurate Are Sex Determinations?

One study that included 640 pregnancies found that:

  • Sex determinations made after 14 weeks' were 100% accurate.
  • The results were 75% accurate when made between 11 and 14 weeks' gestation.
  • When made at fewer than 12 weeks' gestation, the results were 54% accurate.

Ramzi's Ultrasound Method

The Ramzi ultrasound method claims that you can determine whether you’re having a boy or girl based on the side of the uterus the placenta lies on.

If the placenta is on the left, the method claims it means you’re having a girl. If it’s on the right, it supposedly means you’re having a boy.

While the Ramzi ultrasound method sounds scientific, there are no peer-reviewed studies that have found the method to be accurate and much of the information that is available is unreliable.

Many websites that claim the method is a medically valid one attempt to link to the original study, but the link is dead. As of 2020, the study does not appear to be available online.

Those who support the method argue that when viewing an ultrasound, you can't know if it's showing you the "right" right—you could be looking at a mirror image.

Likewise, the picture might be taken from the side as opposed to from the front of the abdomen.

In other words, proponents argue that you can't tell which side the placenta is on in a printed ultrasound photo unless you know the orientation that was used to capture the image.

Businesses and websites are willing to review your early ultrasound pictures (for a price) to make a sex determination using the Ramzi method. However, it's more reliable to wait until your second-trimester ultrasound.

Your doctor, midwife, or an experienced ultrasound tech can give you more accurate results. If you're having NIPT testing, remember that this method can give results as early as 9 or 10 weeks' gestation.

At-Home Tests

There are few at-home methods that claim to be able to accurately predict a baby's sex that you're likely to come across in your search. Here's what you need to know about the reliability of "at-home" sex prediction tests or kits.

Urine Tests

While there are many at-home urine-based gender “test kits" available for purchase online, no urine-based gender test is proven to be scientifically accurate.

In fact, many urine tests clearly state on the box that they are “for entertainment purposes only." With others, you’ll find disclaimers on the paper insert inside the box.

At-home urine test kits warn users not to make any financial or emotional decisions based on their sex prediction results.

Don’t be fooled by tests that offer “100 percent” satisfaction or a money-back guarantee. Products making such claims rely on two facts:

  1. Most people won’t ask for their money back.
  2. The test will correctly predict a baby's sex about half the time purely based on odds.

Genetic Tests

There are also at-home NIPT genetic tests available. While they are low-risk, the tests do require a blood sample. Two major brands are the SneakPeek Test and Nimble Diagnostics.

Unlike the at-home urine tests, at-home genetic testing is based on science and may provide parents-to-be with useful results.

At-home genetic tests use non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to look for cell-free DNA fragments (DNA strands that are free-floating in the bloodstream).

As previously explained, if Y-chromosome cell-free DNA is found, it suggests the fetus is male. If no y-chromosome cell-free DNA is present, it suggests the fetus is female.

The accuracy of at-home NIPT results is around 95%—if the sample is taken as directed.

Before you buy a kit, you should know that you are not guaranteed to receive a result from an at-home NIPT test. Your results may come back "inconclusive."

You might get an inconclusive result if the sample was taken too early (you should be at least 9 weeks pregnant when you take the test) or the blood sample was not high enough quality.

Additionally, if you were not careful about hand hygiene when you collected your sample, accidental contamination can produce an inaccurate result.

For example, if you had touched your male partner's hand right before getting your sample, the test might pick up his Y-chromosomes cell-free DNA and give a false "male" result.

Fact vs. Fiction

Mistakes are more frequent when non-scientific methods of determining sex are used. You don't want to make plans or get emotionally attached to an outcome if a non-reliable technique is used to determine your baby's sex.

Here's the truth about some common myths and "old wives' tales" that are bound to come up when talking about finding out the sex of your baby.

Morning Sickness

One of the most well-known pieces of folk wisdom claims that you’ll have worse morning sickness if you’re carrying a girl. As it turns out, there is some truth in this myth.

Research has found that women who develop severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum) are more likely to be carrying a girl than a boy.

However, studies have not found a difference when looking at run-of-the-mill morning sickness. The difference in sex ratio only appears with severe morning sickness. 

Hyperemesis gravidarum is not a definite sign that you’re having a girl—you’re just more likely to be carrying a girl than a boy. The question is, how much more likely?

A 2004 study found that women who were hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum were 50% more likely to be pregnant with a girl.

If a woman was hospitalized for three days or longer, the odds of her having a girl rose to 80%.

Mother’s Intuition

Some people claim that a woman “can just tell” if she’s having a boy or a girl. Rather than being based on symptoms or signs, this method relies on “mother’s intuition.”

A small study found that women with more than 12 years of education could predict the sex of their unborn child with 71% accuracy (better than by chance).

In contrast, less-educated women were only able to correctly guess the sex of their baby 43% of the time.

While the findings were interesting, it was unclear how a mother's education level would directly impact their "intuition" skills. Furthermore, other research has not found "mother’s intuition" to be a reliable sex predictor.

Fetal Heart Tones

You might hear people claim that fetal heart tones for girl babies are faster than they are for boy babies. While it sounds like a claim that would be backed by science, no studies have proven this "fact" to be true.

There’s no statistically significant difference between the heartbeat of a female fetus and a male fetus. 

Belly Shape and Size

There’s a common folk saying that if a woman “carries high" (with her belly looking more like a basketball under her shirt), then she’s having a boy. If she carries low, it means she is having a girl.

Again, while it might sound scientific, you cannot determine the sex of a baby based on the shape of mom's belly.

The shape and size of your belly during pregnancy has more to do with personal genetics, your weight before you became pregnant, and how many pregnancies you've had.

Drano Test

The so-called "Drano test" is a sex-prediction myth that claims you can determine whether you’re having a girl or boy by mixing your urine with Drano.

In terms of interpreting the "test," you'll find various “results” listed on the Internet—none of which are consistent.

For example, some websites claim your urine will turn brown or blue for a boy and green for a girl, while others claim it turns blue for a girl and green for a boy).

The Drano test is not just a myth, but a potentially dangerous one. Drano is a caustic chemical and its fumes can be extremely toxic.

Even if you are not pregnant, it's never safe to play around with Drano or other household chemicals.

While the dangers of the Drano test are likely enough to dissuade you, scientists long ago determined that it's nothing more than a myth.

When researchers actually tested the Drano theory in a lab setting in the 1980s, they quickly confirmed that it did not work.

Baking Soda Test

The baking soda test supposedly tests the acidity of your urine, which proponents claim is related to the sex of a fetus.

The "test" claims that if you mix your urine with baking soda and the mixture bubbles and fizzles, you’re having a boy. If nothing happens, it's a girl.

It might seem scientific, but the baking soda test does not work. The acidity of your urine is not related to the sex of your unborn baby.

Your urine acidity can be affected by factors such as hydration, diet, and physical activity level. However, there is no evidence that urine pH changes in response to the sex of a fetus in utero.

While it might not be based on science, the baking soda test is harmless. Unlike Drano, it's safe to play around with baking soda and pee as a game at a baby shower. Just don't take the results seriously!

When You Conceived

There’s a lot of folklore that connects a baby's sex to when you conceived. Ancient Chinese gender charts claim that the mother’s age and the month of conception can tell you whether you’re having a boy or a girl.

Some folk stories claim that conception during an odd month will give you a girl and conception during an even month will give you a boy. There are also theories that a baby's sex is affected by the season in which they were conceived.

While these ancient charts have not been shown to be an accurate predictor of sex, research has shown that the seasons might play a role in your baby's sex.

A 2003 study of approximately 14,000 births found that babies conceived in the fall were more likely to be boys, while babies conceived in the spring were more likely to be girls.

The research is certainly interesting, but it's important to remember that the study only looked at a very small number of babies. Children of all sexes are conceived in all seasons.

The “Ring Test”

As the name implies, you'll need a ring for the "ring test. Many people use their wedding bands, but any ring will do.

Take the ring and hang it on a string. Next, hold the string so the ring dangles down over your belly. The ring should not touch your belly, just let it hover over it.

According to the lore of this test, if the ring moves in circles, you’re having a boy. If it moves from side to side, you’re having a girl.

While it's harmless fun, the ring test is also a myth; there’s no scientific validity to it.

The Expectant Father’s Weight

Another old wives' tale focuses on fathers-to-be. If dad gains a significant amount of weight during his partner's pregnancy, the baby will be a boy. If he doesn't, the baby is a girl.

While there is no medical or scientific evidence that links a father's weight gain to the sex of an unborn baby, it's certainly true that some men gain weight and even experience symptoms like nausea during their partner's pregnancy.

Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy) is a real phenomenon, but it's not connected to the sex of a fetus.

Food Cravings

Folk wisdom advises that if you're craving sweets and all things dairy while you are pregnant, you’re going to have a girl. If you’re craving savory, salty, or spicy foods, you’re going to have a boy.

Food cravings are common in pregnancy. One study estimated that between 50% and 90% of women craved specific food at least once when pregnant.

However, there’s no evidence that food cravings are linked to the sex of the fetus.

Evidence has suggested that women who are pregnant with boys may eat more calories overall. However, it's unclear how an individual person would measure "more than average" intake to determine whether they're having a boy.

Mood Swings

Another common claim is that major mood swings indicate you're pregnant with a girl and that having trouble controlling your temper means you're having a boy.

You might assume that your estrogen levels would be higher if you're having a girl and your testosterone levels would be higher with a boy, this is not the case.

While hormones impact mood (in both men and women), hormone levels during pregnancy don't necessarily respond to or depend on the sex of the fetus.

The amniotic fluid can have higher concentrations of sex hormones dependent on the sex of the fetus, but this does not impact hormone levels in the mother's blood.

Mood swings during pregnancy are common, but there’s no medical evidence that supports the theory that the sex of the fetus is influencing your moods.

Hair, Skin, and Your “Glow”

There are many myths surrounding mom's appearance and the sex of the baby she's carrying.

If you’re having a girl, it's been said that you'll have oily skin and dull hair. Some say mom gets a “special glow” if she's having a girl, while others claim girls cause acne woes.

These theories aren't backed by science, but anecdotally, you've probably known women who enjoyed luscious locks and a radiant "glow" during their pregnancies regardless of the sex of their baby.

A Word From Verywell

Many soon-to-be parents want to find out the sex of the baby they are expecting, but it's not always the case. There are pros and cons to each choice.

Ultimately, neither choice is "wrong" and the best decision is the one that is best for you and your partner.

With all the excitement and uncertainty surrounding the birth of a baby, it’s natural to look for a quick and easy way to determine your baby's sex if that's what you want.

Some popular "old wives' tales" can be fun and games at a baby shower, but you don't want to become emotionally attached to a prediction or put your health at risk based on faulty science or pure myth.

The most reliable methods of sex prediction are ultrasounds performed after 14 weeks' gestation or genetic tests such as those conducted during an amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or a non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) blood test.

If you find out that the sex of your baby and it's not what you were hoping for, try not to feel guilty if you are upset. Gender disappointment is common and not something to be ashamed of. If you're struggling with your feelings as a new parent, you might find it helpful to talk with a professional counselor before your baby arrives.

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