Should You Find Out Your Baby's Sex?

One study's surprising findings

pregnant belly unknown sex of the baby

Learning your baby's sex might predict more than just a pink or blue nursery. It might say something about what kind of parent you'll be, at least that's what a study published in Personality and Individual Differences suggests.

For the study, almost 200 expectant mothers from Columbus, Ohio, took tests that measured certain aspects of their personalities, including their beliefs about gender roles. Approximately two-thirds of these mothers knew the sex of their babies before birth.

The findings: Moms who didn't find out their babies' sex were more open to new experiences and had more flexible views about gender norms, compared to those who did find out. (The moms who didn't find out were less concerned about having gendered toys and clothes, and they were more egalitarian about splitting parenting between mom and dad.)

What's more, those who learned their babies' sex scored higher on parenting perfectionism tests, indicating they had unrealistically high standards. These moms also tended to be less educated and single. The researchers' hypothesis: These parents may think that knowing the child's sex would relieve them of some anxiety and uncertainty during pregnancy.

Don't Take It Personally

This study poses some interesting and valid questions, but a relatively small sample of mothers from Ohio doesn't necessarily represent parents across the nation. Not to mention, there are lots of reasons you might want to find out the sex of your baby. Maybe you want to know if you need a bigger house to accommodate siblings of a different sex. Maybe you want to know if you'll have the first girl your family has seen in five generations. Maybe you already have three girls, and you want to prepare yourself in case baby number four is another girl. Maybe you're just plain curious.

Do What's Right for You

In my first three pregnancies, I didn't feel any need to know in advance. Sure, I was curious, but I liked surprises. I liked picking both boy and girl names and dreaming about raising babies of both sexes.

Baby number four was an entirely different matter. She was a big enough surprise on her own and, frankly, I needed all the preparation I could muster. Plus, I'd already used up my best boy and girl names on the other kids and wanted to narrow the playing field.

Did finding out I was having another daughter (we have one son) mean I whipped through the house flailing a pink paintbrush? No. It just meant I only had to choose one name, and I could let my son down easy that he wasn't getting a brother. It gave me a small bit of information that helped me manage a totally unplanned situation.

Over the years that I've worked as a labor nurse, I've cared for thousands of parents who knew the sex of their babies, and thousands who didn't. From what I could see, there was no defining line between them in terms of the type of parents they'd be.

Remember: There's no absolute benefit to knowing your baby's sex in advance other than to prepare yourself mentally. If you and your partner want to know, go for it. But if you're not sure, hold off. Your baby won't care if her diaper covers are pink or blue. Besides, why not enjoy one of the few surprises you'll get in your adult life?