When can I find out the sex of my baby?
Whether you find out the sex of your baby during pregnancy or wait for a surprise when they are born is a completely personal choice. But if you do decide you want to know whether you are expecting a boy or a girl, you might be keen to find out how quickly you can discover their gender.
Most people will get an opportunity to find out the sex of their baby during the ultrasound scan which is normally carried out between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. Often known as the 20-week scan, this examination will check on the development of the baby to see if there are any issues medical professionals need to be aware of.
Although the purpose of the scan is not to find out the baby’s gender, most sonographers will let you know if they are able to see this on the scan. If you want to know the sex of your baby, let the sonographer know at the start of the scan so they are aware.
It may not always be possible to find out the sex during your 20-week scan. Sometimes your baby will be in a difficult position and the person carrying out the examination will be unable to get a clear view of their genitalia.
They may also tell you that they cannot be completely certain. Sometimes, mistakes can be made so even if you are told the sex during the scan, bear in mind there is still a small possibility this could be wrong.
Can I find out the gender before the 20-week scan?
If you are keen to learn your baby’s gender before the 20-week scan, there are private tests you can pay for. You can book a private gender scan with a commercial company but be aware that these appointments can be expensive.
Depending on the company you choose to use, you can have a private scan to find out the baby’s sex from as early as 12 weeks. However, it is usually recommended to wait until at least 16 weeks to give the sonographer the best chance of identifying whether your baby is a boy or a girl. Some private clinics will offer a money-back guarantee so you are only charged if they are able to identify your baby’s sex but make sure you check the terms and conditions before you book.
Ultrasound scans are safe and there is no risk to either you or your baby. They work by using high frequency soundwaves to produce an image of inside your womb.
It is also possible to find out your baby’s sex through a blood test, although this is not something which is offered on the NHS. Some private companies offer prenatal testing which analyses a sample of your blood.
When you are pregnant, some of your baby’s DNA crosses over into your blood. Advanced testing techniques mean it can be analysed for the presence of Y chromosomes.
If Y chromosomes are found in your blood, you are expecting a boy, whereas if none are found, you will be told your baby is a girl. Like the private gender scans, this is a service you will have to pay for yourself.
Some companies offering these early gender blood tests claim to be able to identify your baby’s sex from as early as six or seven weeks. However, these type of tests are more accurate from 20 weeks onwards.
Are there any other ways I can find out the sex of my baby during pregnancy?
If you choose to have screening tests to check for genetic conditions like Down’s Syndrome, you may also be able to find out your baby’s sex when you get the results. However, the main purpose of these tests is not to reveal the gender.
These tests include chorionic villus sampling (CVS), a test which is carried out between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy and involves removing a small sample of cells from the placenta. This test is uncomfortable and there is a small chance it may cause a miscarriage so make sure you discuss the risks with your midwife or consultant.
Another similar screening test is amniocentesis, which involves collecting a sample of amniotic fluid from the womb between 15 weeks and 18 weeks of pregnancy. Like the CVS, this test also comes with a small risk of miscarriage.
Another screening test which may be able to tell you the baby’s gender is the NIPT test (non-invasive prenatal tests). Like the private gender blood tests, this method involves analysing a sample of your blood to look for fragments of your baby’s DNA.
If you choose to have any of these screening tests to check for genetic conditions, talk to your midwife or doctor if you want to find out your baby’s sex from the results. Hospital policies will vary on this depending on what area you are in.