Can Ultrasound Get Gender “Wrong”?

Mistakes of gender based on ultrasounds done in a medical setting are uncommon these days. If a trained sonographer—especially one who is identifying body parts such as kidneys and chambers of the heart—is confident enough to pronounce a gender, it’s very, very likely that he or she is correct.

Don’t hesitate to ask the technician how he or she arrived at the conclusion. If the technician mentions “three lines,” this is a reference to the presence of a vagina and vulva—a definitive indication that the fetus is female. If the technician says he or she observed a penis, ask to have it pointed out.

When a technician is wrong, it’s usually because he or she has made a guess based on not being able to observe a penis. And the more experience a sonographer has, the more accurate his or her observations can be expected to be. If there is an issue involving gender that could indicate a need for genetic counseling, you’ll be referred to a professional in that area.

Also, don’t be too quick to trust your own “reading” of the ultrasound. Unless you’re trained in this area, an ultrasound can be very misleading. Particularly on a traditional (non-3D or 4D) ultrasound, if you stare at the baby for awhile it seems to morph into a sea of light and dark.

So, just how often do ultrasounds—or their readers—get the gender wrong? Reports vary, but most professional sources say the accuracy at least 95 percent. And yet, anecdotally, we hear of parents who have been told to expect a baby of one gender only to be surprised at the birth. This is less common nowadays, though.

Some parents-to-be, after receiving inconclusive reports as to gender on their doctor-ordered 2D ultrasound, opt to visit a reassurance or keepsake ultrasound provider, where, in 3D or 4D, the presence of a penis or vagina can be quite clear if the baby is positioned cooperatively. (Please note that as birth nears and Baby gets more cramped in there, he or she curls up more, making it more likely that the genitals may be hidden.
Below are some ultrasound images of a baby girl whose parents were told to expect a boy. Click to enlarge.
28 week girl ultrasound, gender was wrong28 week girl ultrasound, thought to be boy28 week girl ultrasound, technician said boy28 week girl ultrasound, gender said to be boy28 week girl ultrasound, not boy as predicted

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