Find Out Baby's Gender in Utero: 4 Ways to Tell

Finding out "boy or girl?" is an exciting day, and most parents are chomping at the bit for an answer. And these days, there are various ways to determine the gender of your baby -- some sooner or later or more or less expensive and accurate than others. Consider the pros and cons of your options below:

1. Ultrasound

How it's done: "This is the most common method," says Steven Thung, OB-GYN and clinical chief of obstetrics at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. Basically, it's done by visual inspection -- in other words, what's going on between the baby's legs.

How soon you can find out: Typically around 16 to 18 weeks, although it is possible earlier. "Ultrasounds at the end of the first trimester or beginning of the second can also identify gender," says Thung. "At that time, the sonographer and physician may have a strong inkling concerning gender if the fetus is positioned just right. But most will not make a firm commitment."

Pros/cons: It's considered around 90 percent reliable and free if you have insurance. "These services are typically included in a mother's insurance plan," says Thung. Or if not, some services cost as little as $50 for the privilege.

2. Cell-free fetal DNA

How it's done: "This new technology allows a mother's blood to be drawn," says Thung. "The lab looks for the fetus's DNA in her blood and can determine many things, including the presence of X or Y chromosomes." This can be done at a doctor's office or you can buy a test over the counter to draw blood at home, which you then mail to a lab for analysis.

How soon you can find out: As early as 7 weeks.

Pros/cons: It boasts 95 percent accuracy at 7 weeks and 99 percent by 20. But this early heads up will cost you: One of the most affordable, the Pink or Blue home test, costs $149. "But women with medical indications for screening, such as being over the age of 35, typically can have this reimbursed by an insurance plan," says Thung.

More from The Stir: New, Earlier Test to Determine Baby's Gender Could Save Lives

3. Amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling

How it's done: A needle in inserted into the amniotic sac (amniocentesis) or placenta (chorionic villus sampling) to remove cells that can be grown to analyze chromosomes, including the presence of X and Y chromosomes. Most do it to gauge if their baby may have a genetic condition, such as Down syndrome.

How soon you can find out: Amniocentesis is typically done between 14 and 20 weeks; CVS between 10 and 13 weeks.

Pros/cons: Sure it's more than 98 percent accurate and typically included under most health insurance plans, but it also comes with risks, such as miscarriage. "Generally these more invasive methods are not done for identifying gender, given the small but present risks of complications to the pregnancy," says Thung. Still, if you're getting one for other reasons, why not get the added benefit of a nailing down what color to paint the nursery?

4. At-home urine test kit

How it's done: Available over the counter at drug stores, these tests such as the IntelliGender Gender Prediction Test Kit scan a mother's urine sample for hormone levels.

How soon you can find out: As early as 6 weeks.

Pros/cons: It costs just 20-some bucks, is available at your local drug store, and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Yet Dr. Thung is skeptical it works. "I cannot recommend it," he says. "Testing for hormones in urine can be valuable and we do this when testing HCG for the presence of pregnancy. But whether there is a test sensitive enough to identify small fluctuations of testosterone and other hormones associated with being male remains unknown to me. Mothers all have baseline testosterone levels in their blood, so a potential small increase due to the presence of a male fetus would be challenging to detect accurately." All in all, feel free to try it for kicks, but take this prediction with a huge grain of salt!

How did you determine the gender of your baby?


Images © Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Corbis;

tests & procedures