Reasons to Not Find out the Sex of Your Baby

Couple Holding Ultrasound Photo

Sam Diephuis / Getty Images

Finding out the sex of your baby seems to be something that everyone is doing. While the numbers are certainly high, 80+%, it certainly isn’t every parent. In fact, there seems to be a recent trend back to keeping it a secret, if not for yourselves, at least from everyone else. When asked why parents don’t want to find out the gender of the baby before birth, here are some of the things you’ll hear:

Prevent Sexual Stereotyping or Gender Bias

While you might be open to more options if you don’t know the sex of your baby, knowing automatically puts you into a definite girl or boy category. Some families complain that if they know they are having a girl or a boy, they are bombarded with gifts for that sex. Think pink! (Or blue.) Though this may or may not bother you.

It has also been discussed that moms who know the sex of their babies before birth describe the fetal movements differently. So that generic strong kicking becomes the male soccer player and the female a ballerina as opposed to simply a strong, healthy baby. This may be something to simply be aware of if you chose to find out.

Life’s Last Great Mystery

Many parents cite the mystery as to why they wish to wait. They enjoy the ability to explore all the options in their mind. The mystery of not knowing, the playing with the entire book of baby names, rather than just one-half, is something that many parents actually enjoy. Some families really prize these special moments. I know that with one of our children, when we did not know, hearing a sibling call out, “It’s a boy!” was a very sweet sound indeed and one of my fondest labor memories. Or moms point to the fact that they felt like labor was easier when they didn’t know. They speak about pushing harder and feeling more excited than when they knew the outcome. This is certainly not true for everyone but definitely will keep you guessing until the very last second.

It Makes Labor More Exciting

Talk about the big reveal! Birth is where it used to happen all the time, not so anymore. Hearing it’s a girl or it’s a boy from your partner at birth is something that some find very special. This can’t really be replicated at the ultrasound because of the interpretation of the scan that is needed.

The Ultrasound Is Not Always Right

There is also the possibility of error as with any test. While the number of errors seems to have dropped in recent years, it is still possible. This can lead to sadness or even depression, which, while temporary, is still real and not something that you want to deal with at birth. This is particularly true when everyone is telling you that you should be happy for a healthy baby, not realizing you’ve just had a mental miscarriage of the baby that you’d been dreaming of, despite the fact that he or she has been replaced with another healthy infant.

There Is No Medical Need for an Ultrasound

If you don’t have a medical need for an ultrasound and your insurance doesn’t cover it, you may not have a chance to find out. This also applies to invasive genetic testing done merely for sex determination. When parents have to pay out of pocket or are worried about the potential effects of testing, they may choose not to go through with it. Since invasive genetic testing like an amniocentesis carries a very small but real risk to the pregnancy, it is rarely, if ever done without cause.

There is also a middle ground — having the information, but not looking at it. This involves having the information placed in a sealed envelope. You can then have more than just that one moment midway through the pregnancy at an ultrasound appointment with a stranger in the room as when you can find out. Maybe you decide to open the envelope in the car along with your partner. Maybe you wait until closer to the baby's birthday, or maybe you wait and open it after the baby has been born. You have options.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.