Once a couple gets the ‘good news’, they’ll have a million questions on their minds! Will it be a boy or a girl? Will he/she look like Daddy or Mommy? What will be the color of the eyes? Questions such as these keep the soon-to-be parents intrigued from the moment the pregnancy is confirmed right until the D-Day. And, one of the ways that they think they can get an answer to these questions is through ultrasounds. However, is an ultrasound really accurate? Can it really be trusted? Let us discuss further.
Why An Ultrasound?
The medical personnel primarily conduct an ultrasound during pregnancy to track fetal growth and scan for any fetal health issues. This helps them take preventive measures in time to avoid any complications during or after birth. According to a study conducted on 640 fetuses, ultrasound gender predictions were found to be 100% accurate after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Whereas the average success rate for the first-trimester group was 75% (1). Despite being strictly for medical purposes, most expectant parents, however, consider ultrasound a tool to discover the gender of their baby before birth.
However, we need to remember that ultrasound gender determination has been banned by law in some countries and even considered a crime in countries like India. This is to prevent rampant misuse of ultrasound gender determination to commit female feticide.
Factors That Affect Ultrasound Gender Determination
Although scientifically an ultrasound gender prediction can be pretty much accurate, its accuracy does get affected by some factors too. A few of them are mentioned here:
1. Gestational Age Of The Fetus
During your first trimester, your baby remains pretty much indifferent gender-wise. It is only during the second trimester that your baby starts developing external genitalia. This is when your doctor can conduct an ultrasound and determine if the baby is a boy or a girl accurately (2). However, the accuracy of the determined gender of your baby also depends on the gestational week that you get your ultrasound done. Because it is only around the 14th week of your pregnancy that the baby’s gender starts becoming more apparent (3). This means that if you were to visit your doctor even a week earlier, chances are that the gender determination might not be as accurate as it is supposed to be. So, to be sure, wait around until at least the 18th or 20th week before you get a confirmation on the same. Until then, remain patient and put a hold to those blue or pink room decorations that you were planning already.
2. The Position Of The Fetus
Your baby is literally floating around in the amniotic fluid. Therefore, there might be times when your baby might assume a position that makes it difficult for the sonographer to look at the genitalia. If the visuals are not clear on the sonography monitor due to this, then in all likelihood the sonographer might just make a guess regarding the baby’s gender. Such a scenario thereby affects the accuracy of ultrasound gender determination.
3. Multiple Pregnancies
Just like in a singleton pregnancy, where a fetus can assume any position, the same holds true for multiple pregnancies. When you are carrying twins, triplets, or more than that, there are high chances that the fetuses can cover each other. This makes it difficult to determine the gender of each fetus accurately.
4. Excess Body Weight Of The Mother
If the soon-to-be mother puts on excessive weight following pregnancy or is obese, this can also affect the baby’s gender determination. The extra body fat can come in the way of getting a clear image of the baby during an ultrasound, sometimes resulting in hazy images. Thus, it can affect the accuracy of the baby’s gender prediction.
The journey of pregnancy is full of emotional highs and lows – euphoria, anxiety, and caution are some of them. But the “suspense” of getting to know your baby’s gender is what makes this journey all the more exciting. So, whether or not your sonographer tells you this, you know that it’s going to be worth the wait! All the best and have a safe pregnancy!