Boy or girl: can my pregnancy scan be wrong?

Lots of pregnant women and partners look forward to finding out the sex of their baby at their ultrasound scan. But is it always correct? Not according to MFM mums and the experts...

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Can you always trust your ultrasound scan results when it comes to the sex of your baby? The simple answer is no. That’s right, girl/boy predictions done by expert sonographers are not correct 100% of the time. (Although they are right most of the time!)

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Has it happened to you? Have you been told the sex of your baby but you’re either not convinced or the sonographer didn’t seem fully committed to their prediction.

Take PinkPig56913 who recently went for her 20 week scan and wanted to find out the sex of her baby.

“It took a while to see it but the sonographer would only say she ‘thinks’ it is a little girl. I asked her if she was sure and she just said she ‘thinks so’. We were over the moon but it’s playing on my mind lately… is she right? My mum and mum-in-law have started buying pink stuff already!”

So should you be rushing out to buy pink or blue flavoured baby stuff, based on the opinion of your sonographer? Erm, may be hold your horses until you’ve read on…

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So can the sex of my baby be wrong?

Yes. Reading info from a scan is all about interpretation. Sonographers are highly skilled in identifying a lot of detail from a fairly blurry image, which can be made a lot harder if your baby isn’t playing ball and is in a tricky position. And getting it wrong does happen.

“My friend is a midwife and she said this happens quite often,” reveals nikkiandnell, “which is why they often won’t tell you 100% what the sex is.

“In my scan the sonographer actually saw the girl parts (rather than just not seeing boy parts) and pointed them out to us, but even then she said she couldn’t tell us for certain.

“I painted my nursery in beige and creams and haven’t told anyone apart from our parents – just in case. It will certainly be very strange if they have made a mistake.” Nikki went on to have a girl, by the way.

When MFM editor Susie went for her 20-week scan for her first child, the sonographer couldn’t answer her question. “I was keen to know in advance what sex our baby was, but the sonographer said she couldn’t tell,” recalls Susie, whose baby turned out to be a girl.

When the sonographer says ‘I think’…

The key is to listen to exactly how your sonographer is sharing the news.

lilylou asked upfront. “At my 20 week scan I was told I was having a boy and I asked how sure the sonographer was. She said she was 100% sure. I was worried about buying loads of stuff for one sex so I think I will trust 100%. If she said ‘think’ i would have maybe been a bit more cautious and bought neutral for the big items.” And lilylou had… a boy.

Bride Carly Barley adds, “I was told I was having a boy at my scan so I was most surprised when a beautiful little girl popped out! But they were never that sure. The sonographer said she ‘thought’ it was a boy, so I took it with a pinch of salt and bought mostly neutral things. But saying that I don’t know anyone else who has been told the wrong sex.”

Mums share sex surprises

You can find plenty of stories about sex surprises on our forum. “My hubby’s cousin was told it was a girl, then she had to have a growth scan 2 weeks before the birth and it turned out it was a boy!” says Ames123.

“My cousin had a private 12 week scan and the sonographer said on the quiet, ‘I think it’s a boy’ but at the 20 week scan it’s a girl! At my own 20 week scan I was told it’s a girl. I said to the sonographer ‘And you can see clearly? There’s definitely no sign of a willy?’ as I really wanted to be sure!”

For some of us, being told your baby is one sex and then discovering at birth you have a baby of the opposite sex, is a real concern.

“Ahhh this is my worst nightmare!” admits PrincessJane1983, only half joking, and who is taking every opportunity to double-triple check. “I was told I was having a girl by a pyschic and at a gender scan at 16 weeks and at my 20 week one. But I am having a 4D scan in 2 weeks so they will check then too. Also I have got growth scans at 30 and 34 weeks. Would be a nightmare for me as I have everything pink, haha!”

And guess what, PrincessJane had… a baby girl.

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At how many weeks is it possible to tell the sex of your baby from a scan?

You are usually able to find out the sex of your baby during the anomaly scan, which happens around 20 weeks.

“The sex of your baby is reasonably accurately determined by ultrasound from 12 weeks but most NHS  departments will not offer an opinion until at least 16 weeks and more commonly not until the anomaly scan. Private providers may of course offer it, however,” says Nigel Thompson, Professional Officer for ultrasound at the Society and College of Radiographers.

You are usually able to find out the sex of your baby during the anomaly scan, which happens around 20 weeks.

“The sex of your baby is reasonably accurately determined by ultrasound from 12 weeks but most NHS  departments will not offer an opinion until at least 16 weeks and more commonly not until the anomaly scan. Private providers may of course offer it, however,” says Nigel Thompson, Professional Officer for ultrasound at the Society and College of Radiographers.

It’s also important to remember that while your sonographer probably will share their opinion with you, this is not 100% certain.

There are also theories about how to predict your baby’s sex from your 12-week dating scan:

Alternatively, you can book a private gender scan before your 20-week scan. These are available from around 14-15 weeks.

“The ideal time is from the 14th or 15th weeks of pregnancy,” explains Dr Geetha Venkat, Director of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic. “This is when the baby’s sexual organs have grown to a point at which they can be correctly identified.”

Can you be more certain for boys than girls?

“The most accurate way to be sure if it is a boy is if you get a positive identification on the penis and scrotum,” says Nigel. “It would still not be 100 percent certain but definitely in the upper 90s%.”

LouiseMurray managed to get some pretty strong proof of her baby’s sex on her scan pictures.

“I got a whole scan pic of my little one’s willy at my 20 week scan so I’m positive it’s a boy. That’ll be one to embarrass him with when he’s older!”

For girls looking for the ‘three lines’ (pic below) can be helpful. “This is basically identifying the labia,  The three lines just describes the upper part and the lower part and is a good way of determining a female.”

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Heard about the ‘potty shot’?

Jan Steward says the way Ultrasound Direct and Babybond are most certain is when sonographers look at the ‘potty shot’.  “When we scan we always give the parents an example picture of what we call the potty shot and then we look together and I point out why we think it’s a boy or girl.

“We give a professional opinion but there are a few cases when there is a surprise. There is no such thing as 100%”

Getting a private scan for a 2nd opinion

For some who felt the NHS prediction was not definitive enough, there’s the choice of paying for another look with a private scan.

“At my 20 week scan we asked to know the sex, and the sonographer said our baby had legs tightly closed,” explains Happy2Hook. “She said she couldn’t see any obvious boy bits, and apologised at not being much help on the matter!

“I booked a private scan that night for the week after. The whole experience was amazing. The lady checked 3 times and showed us the 3 little lines of the girly bits  A hamburger she called it!

“At the start of the scan we had to sign a disclaimer to say we wouldn’t sue if they got it incorrect and that they could only be 95% (or something like that!) accurate.”

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