Technology allows you to uncover the sex of your baby before the little bundle arrives in the world, but do you really want to know or would you prefer to keep the baby's sex a mystery?

According to a recent poll aired on the Mother & Baby website well over half of pollsters said they'd find out the sex of their baby.

63% said junior's sex would be uncovered before B-day. Only 2% of mums weren't sure what they'd do while the remainder decided to keep the sex a mystery.

Parents-to-be cite many reasons for 'finding the sex' or not some want to know because they can plan the practicalities of their baby's arrival from deciding on the colour to paint the nursery to co-ordinating clothes and putting the child's name down at that exclusive same-sex school. Other mums want to leave their baby's sex shrouded in obscurity leaving that wonderful gift of discovery to the moment of the birth.

Technicalities

In Australia there are no ethical impediments to finding out the sex of your baby. In the UK it's a different matter litigious parents-to-be who may sue if the sex is wrong and folk finding out the sex of their baby for religious reasons have led medical staff to exercise caution when asked about revealing the sex of an unborn child at a scan appointment. The theory goes that boys are preferred in some cultures and an early 'diagnosis' has been known to allow some women to terminate their pregnancies on the grounds of sex.

Dr Christine Tippett, Vice President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there are no reasons to stay mum when it comes to finding out the sex of an unborn babe in Australia. 'It's a completely personal thing, whether you find out or not and is down the individual choice of the parents,' she says.

How do you find the sex?

So is it a simple matter of asking the sonographer at your appointment to divulge the sex? Many ultrasound operators say they might not be able to give you a definite answer. Babies move around in the womb and sometimes are uncooperative with a sex 'diagnosis' as they have their legs crossed or are turned the wrong to way to get an accurate picture.

If the sonographer is happy to have a stab at investigating the sex, they will often give you an idea of how certain they are.

M&B reader and mum of two Natasha Cornell says, 'We were told at our second ultrasound that we were having a girl. When asked how accurate it was and the sonographer said, 'I'm 100% sure'. We told all our family and at the baby shower we were given everything for a little girl. The nursery was all set up in pinks and purples. However, we got a rather large surprise when our dear son was born!'

Other methods to find the sex of your baby often come as the upside of other, sometimes scary tests, you may have to undertake during pregnancy. Amniocentesis, where fluid is taken from the womb by a needle between 18 to 20 weeks, then analysed, gives an accurate reading of the baby's sex although health professionals will usually only do this test to discern the sex of a child unless there is a serious risk of the baby having a genetic disorder that's passed on to either male or female children.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is another test that finds your baby's sex and it involves taking cells from the placenta usually to unearth genetic abnormalities. It's performed earlier than the amniocentesis at around 10 to 12 weeks both tests carry risks that need to be discussed with your doctor, midwife or health care professionals.

Mums' choices

Here some mums share their reasons for either finding out or keeping mum on the sex of their baby.

Stacey – mum of Izabelle and Kailee

'I didn't find out with either baby. At 37.5 weeks with Izabelle I did ask and my doctor said I didn't really want to know and told me to wait the last week. I'm glad he said that now!'

Mum of Jaidev – by email

'We wanted to find out as my husband is Indian and I am fair skinned, red haired and I really couldn't picture what the baby would look like so I wanted to know to make it more real. We took it with a grain of salt, but I asked the sonographer to check it twice I figured if he could find 'it' twice it was more likely to be accurate! As a joke the sonographer printed out a picture and labeled it 'willy' one to save for his 21st, don't you think?'

Tammy – mum of Tayla

'I found out with my daughter because I didn't think I could wait till the end without knowing. My partner didn't really want to know, but as he didn't come to the ultrasound I asked! I told my partner when he got home from work that night, but apart from my sister and my mum no-one else knew. They all assumed it was a boy. My favourite colour is blue, so I bought a few blue things during my lunch break at work and I'd take them back to the office so the girls would see. Cruel I know! Even when she was born, we had to check her several times to make sure she was definitely a girl.'

'Why I found out the sex'

Mum of two Monique Haylen, mum of two girls, decided to find out the sex of her daughters and she has discovered the sex of her third child, due at the end of 2006. Here's why she decided to find out.

'We both decided that we wanted to know. In the first scan, where you can't tell anyway, we were both trying to see if we could make out the sex of the baby. The lady doing the scan said it was far too early but we were trying to guess anyway. We wanted to know because we have two girls and without telling them the sex of the baby we wanted to prepare them for it they are four and three years old.

We found the sex of our other children too. Our excitement and surprise was finding out we were pregnant. When people see that you are pregnant they always say, 'Congratulations, do you know what you are having?' Not just 'Congratulations'. It is quite funny. We did know but decided not to tell. It was our secret. I have two sisters so I was so happy that we were having girls, they are wonderful.

For us now, the best thing about knowing the sex of this baby is that we can make sure our two girls are ready and don't have any initial disappointment. They change from wanting a brother to a sister so by knowing what we are having, we can help shift their thoughts so they don't decide on one and then we have the other. By saying things like 'Imagine if we have a (insert sex!), you will be able to do this or that'.

Also, with having two girls and the amount of clothes we have, it is good to know from a sorting out point of view, you know if you need to keep things, pass them on to friends. It is good because you can prepare clothing, the room, names etc and it becomes a baby boy or girl that you are carrying inside, not just a baby. The baby, for me, develops an identity and personality when you know its sex.

A few friends have said that they love the joy and surprise of finding out when the baby is born I think you still have this because you have created an amazing baby. It doesn't really matter what sex the baby so I don't think it matters if you know.'

Low-tech ways to find the sex

The needle or wedding ring test is popular. Put the ring or needle on a loop of thread and hang it over your bump if it swings in a line, it's a boy, if it swings in a circle, it's a girl.

Here are some other fun predictors:

You will have a boy if:

  • Baby's heart rate is under 140 beats per minute.
  • You are carrying low and in front
  • Your urine is bright yellow
  • Your right breast is bigger than your left
  • You don't experience any morning sickness in the first trimester
  • You eat much more than usual

You will have a girl if:

  • Baby's heart rate is faster than 140 beats per minute
  • You are carrying high and all over
  • Your urine is clear
  • Your left breast is bigger than your right
  • You sleep on your right side

Did you find out the sex of your baby? Tell us why, or why not!