Whether you're ready to know (now!) or are waiting to find out in the delivery room, chances are you have your suspicions—hunches fueled, perhaps, by well-meaning friends and family. Take first-time mom Arlene Bordinhao, of Las Vegas, who was convinced she was having a girl. Folks informed her that because she was carrying high and her belly resembled a watermelon, not a basketball, it had to be a girl. The Chinese lunar calendar predicted a girl.
Plus, Bordinhao's mother didn't see any dark circles on her neck. "In the Philippines, where I was born, no rings means a girl," she explains. Although her husband wanted to wait to find out the baby's sex, Bordinhao had to know for sure. "Not being able to prepare for the biggest event of my life made me crazy," she admits, so she found out at 16 weeks during a routine sonogram. Surprise! "There was our little man, in all his glory," Bordinhao recalls.
"We were in shock for 24 hours, but now we're thrilled. Finding out helped us prepare mentally and stock the nursery. I can't wait to meet him!"
That's usually the first question expectant mothers and fathers are asked. Parents-to-be can—and nearly always do!—answer it earlier than ever before, thanks to the latest imaging technology. In fact, 9 out of 10 new moms polled in our MomTrak survey knew the sex of their baby prior to labor day.
"By your fifth month, around week 18 or 19 of your pregnancy, a sonogram can show you the sex of your unborn child with about 95 percent accuracy," explains Daniel A. Potter, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Huntington Reproductive Center Medical Group, in California. "From a medical standpoint, we do an ultrasound to check the age, position, and health of the fetus, but most parents want to know the sex too. That's true if it's the first baby or the fourth."
Expectant parents are particularly nosy creatures: If you Google "predicting Baby's sex," you'll find nearly 4 million entries, including gender-predicting kits you can buy at your local Target. Yet, if we all agree that having a healthy, happy baby is paramount, why do we care so much whether that baby is a boy or a girl? "It's human nature," Dr. Potter says. It started in the Stone Age, he continues: "A family without sons, whose job was to hunt and keep everyone fed, might not have survived. So offerings were made to the gods, and soothsayers were consulted. People passed on to the next generation the methods they considered most effective for guaranteeing a boy, and this inspired old wives' tales."
Throughout history, gender has remained a priority. "For hundreds of years, sex determined not only your life's options but your parents options too," says social historian Stephanie Coontz, Ph.D., author of A Strange Stirring, which tells of the struggle for gender equality in the 1960s. "It influenced how your parents treated you, what they expected of you, even if they welcomed you at all." In many societies, not having a son was a tragedy; for the ruling elite, it was a threat to their power: "Women were killed or killed themselves if they didn't deliver a boy," she says.
Polls today reveal that Americans still have a slight preference for boys. But in this country, a baby's gender is no longer a matter of life-and-death importance. "We increasingly want the same things for our children, boys or girls," Dr. Coontz says. Still, many can't resist the siren call of knowing Baby's sex.