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Millena Kristie shares her sonogram photo. Image Credit: Supplied

Getting a home ready for a baby is no easy feat – especially when you are dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. When Millena Kristie, a Filipino expat living in Dubai, found out she was pregnant, she waited anxiously for her second scan. “I forgot to ask the person scanning about the sex of the baby, so I asked my gynaecologist, who said it’s 90 per cent a girl. And then when I changed hospitals, the new gynaecologist, she said it’s definitely a girl,” she says.

Kristie spent the remainder of the pregnancy getting things ready. The checklist was intensive – milk bottles and swaddles and onesies and booties. A note was sent out on a WhatsApp group, and family and friends had begun to shop for presents. “We got lots of girly things from my husband’s side of the family,” she says.

When Kristie was at 36 weeks, she headed to the doctor for a scan. “My placenta was very low, by the end of it, I had high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and cholestasis,” she recalls. While in this mode and trying to keep up her spirits, she and her husband joked with the doctor about the antics the child was pulling. “The foetal doctor was like, ‘she?’ and so she showed us the private parts and then she showed him while he was peeing – it was definitely a boy,” she laughs.

What are pre-eclampsia and cholestasis?
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious — even fatal — complications for both mother and child.
Cholestasis of pregnancy is a liver condition that occurs in late pregnancy. The condition triggers intense itching, but without a rash. Itching usually occurs on the hands and feet but can also affect other parts of the body.
It can make you extremely uncomfortable. But, more worrisome are the potential complications for you and your baby. Because of the risk of complications, your doctor may recommend early delivery.
Source: Mayo Clinic

Her husband was a tad upset by the news, she recalls, “But I was dealing with so much other stuff that I was focused on just having a healthy labour. At the time, I was just happy that I could set my C-section.

“I had an anxiety attack the day before the C-section; it was quite an ordeal. His umbilical cord was around his neck already and he had already started to poo, so we had to take him out when he hit 36 weeks.”

The baby boy was born weighing 2.689 kilos. “We were in the hospital for a week before I had the C-section. I was very scared, I was crying but then when I heard my baby cry everything changed – I was focused on my baby; it was the happiest day of my life,” she says.

Dora Peric's son (pictured) is three years old.

Thirty-two-year-old Croatian expat Dora Peric was sure she was having a baby girl, too – she underwent non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) because the doctors had wanted to investigate certain Down Syndrome markers. “The NIPT genetic test reveals the definite gender too. So we were surprised to find out that we were actually having a boy! We honestly did not mind as long as the baby was healthy and for some reason I bought gender neutral stuff anyway,” she tells Gulf News in an interview.

What are the various ways to find out your baby’s sex?

Boy or girl
Eleven weeks is the earliest that sex determination can be carried out with an ultrasound using a method called the ‘nub theory’.

Using an ultrasound/sonogram: US-based website WebMD explains that the accuracy of determining your baby’s gender increases with how far along you are in the pregnancy. The accuracy can vary from 70.3 per cent at 11 weeks to 98.7 per cent at 12 weeks, and 100 per cent at 13 weeks. Eleven weeks is the earliest that sex determination can be carried out with an ultrasound using a method called the ‘nub theory’. (There are of course exceptions to this rule.)

What is ‘nub theory’?
All babies have a genital tubercle, informally called a ‘nub’ seen between the legs. The nub usually develops around 11 to 13 weeks. According to the nub theory, the baby is a male if the nub points to an angle greater than 30 degrees against the spine. The baby is a female if the nub is parallel to the spine, or at an angle less than 10 degrees against the spine.
When the nub theory was tested on 656 singleton (one baby) pregnancies in a controlled study, it was possible to identify gender in 93 per cent of the babies.

NIPT testing: This test analyses the infant’s DNA after extracting it from the mum-to-be’s blood. The earliest this test can be used is at 10 weeks’ gestation. NIPT detects the most frequent form of Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome), 18 (Edwards syndrome), and 21 (Down syndrome) and identifies the gender of the baby, explains Dubai-based Fakih IVF Fertility Center.

Chorionic villus sampling: During pregnancy, the placenta has wispy projections called chorionic villi, which share the baby's genetic make-up, and testing these can reveal whether a baby has a chromosomal condition such as Down syndrome as well as other genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, explains US-based Mayo Clinic.

Amniocentesis: Amniocentesis is a procedure used to take out a small sample of the amniotic fluid for testing. This is the fluid that surrounds the foetus in a pregnant woman, explains US-based Johns Hopkins Medicine.

How common is a misdiagnosis of sex?

Dr Smitha Balusamy, Specialist Obstetrics and Gynaecologist Prime Medical Centre Al Quasis, explains that surprises such as the ones Kristie and Peric received are not so common. “With the available technology, misreading the gender of an unborn child is a rarity – the odds of which depend on the method chosen and its timing during pregnancy,” she says.

With the available technology, misreading the gender of an unborn child is a rarity.

- Dr Smitha Balusamy

NIPT, she says, is 99 per cent accurate as it analyses the baby’s DNA. However if the test is conducted before 10 weeks of gestation, the accuracy of the test may be suspect.

Using an ultrasound will give the best results – if the test is done between 18 and 22 weeks – it has a 95 - 99 per cent precision.

Invasive tests such as CVS, meanwhile, she says are not generally done to check on gender, but can diagnose it with accuracy. These tests can misread gender only in some rare clinical disorders.

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