Finding out the gender of your baby during pregnancy, or not

Are you  having a boy or girl? This is one of the standard questions people ask a pregnant lady. Everyone asks. It has become a kind of conversation starter. It’s not that the stranger in the grocery store really cares, but it just seems like natural thing to say. It’s part of the standard questions we ask pregnant women. How far along are you? Is there just one? When are you due? People get excited about pregnancy and want  to share the experience.

So what if you choose not to find out the gender of your baby?

This comes up occasionally. Couples have various reasons but usually it’s centered around wanting to be surprised. They want to have that magical TV moment of shock, excitement and joy. I have seen deliveries almost daily for the past eleven years.  I will say couples are always surprised. Its hard to say whether finding out the gender has anything to do with it. Seeing a delivery is magical in and of itself. Everyone seems surprised, seeing a human being expelled from your body is a miracle to watch. I don’t see much difference if you know the gender or not.

On the other hand, if you choose to find out what you are having you get two surprises. The initial is in the second trimester when the sonographer shows you the “boy parts” or the “girl parts.” Then you get a second surprise at delivery making two surprises and two moments to celebrate.

Interestingly, I notice a difference in the language moms use during the pregnancy. Before we know the gender they call the baby “it” or the generic “the baby.” Moms who know the gender say “he” and “she” and often start referring to the baby by name —-“Jaden is moving a lot today.”  Does this mean these moms are bonding to their baby earlier? Who knows?

To me it seems like people would want to know just to avoid the annoyance of having to explain to strangers at the mall why you are not finding out. Also, who wants all yellow clothes at the baby shower? My mother shared a story from the days before knowing the sex of the baby was an option. While pregnant with me she painted one room green. When pregnant with my sister she painted it yellow.

When I have a patient who does not know I instruct our sonographer to write only “normal genitalia” and not gender. My policy is if the patient does not know then I don’t either.   I learned that the hard way.  A few years ago, after “keeping the secret” the entire pregnancy I referred to the baby casually as “she” during labor. Oops. The wise mom immediately caught the slip. I tried to cover it up but she was not buying it.

So should you find out ahead of time? I’ll tell you 9 months from now.

Jeff Livingston is an obstetrician-gynecologist at MacArthur OB/GYN, also on Facebook.  He can be reached on Twitter @macobgyn.  This post originally appeared on Texas Health Moms.

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