Expat based in the United Arab Emirates: “My doctor was wrong about the sex of my baby”

Preparing a home for a baby is no small feat, especially when it comes to a high-risk pregnancy. When Millena Kristie, a Filipino expat living in Dubai, found out she was pregnant, she eagerly awaited her second ultrasound. “I forgot to ask the person scanning the baby’s sex, so I asked my gynecologist, who said it was 90% female. And then when I changed hospitals, the new gynecologist, she said it was definitely a girl,” she says.

Kristie spent the rest of the pregnancy preparing things. The checklist was intensive – milk bottles and nappies and onesies and booties. A note was sent to a WhatsApp group, and family and friends started buying presents. “We got a lot of girly stuff from my husband’s side of the family,” she says.

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

What are pre-eclampsia and cholestasis?

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most commonly the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure was normal. Untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications for both mother and child.
Cholestasis gravidarum is a liver disease that occurs at the end of 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 worrying are the potential complications for you and your baby. Due to the risk of complications, your doctor may recommend an early delivery.
Source: Mayo Clinic

Her husband was a bit upset by the news, she recalls: “But I had so many other things to do that I was just focused on a healthy delivery. At the time, I was just happy to be able to settle my caesarean section.

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

The baby boy was born with a weight of 2,689 kilos. “We were in hospital for a week before having the caesarean section. I was very scared, I was crying but when I heard my baby crying everything changed – I was focused on my baby; that was the best day of my life,” she said.

The son of Dora Peric (photo) is three years old.

Thirty-two-year-old Croatian expat Dora Peric was also sure she was having a baby girl – she underwent a non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) because doctors had wanted to investigate certain markers of Down syndrome. “The NIPT genetic test also reveals the defined sex. We were therefore surprised to learn that we were going to have a boy! Honestly, we didn’t mind as long as the baby was healthy and for some reason I still bought gender neutral stuff,” she told Gulf News in an interview.

What are the different ways to know the sex of your baby?

Boy or girl

Eleven weeks is the earliest sex determination can be done with an ultrasound using a method called the ‘knot theory’.

Use of Ultrasound/Ultrasound: The American website WebMD explains that the accuracy of determining the sex of your baby increases as the pregnancy progresses. Accuracy can vary from 70.3% at 11 weeks to 98.7% at 12 weeks and 100% at 13 weeks. Eleven weeks is the earliest sex determination can be done with an ultrasound using a method called the ‘knot theory’. (There are of course exceptions to this rule.)

What is the “knot theory”?

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

NIPT test: This test analyzes the infant’s DNA after extracting it from the mother-to-be’s blood. This test can be used no earlier than 10 weeks gestation. NIPT detects the most common form of trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome), 18 (Edwards syndrome) and 21 (Down syndrome) and identifies the sex of the baby, explains the Dubai-based Fakih IVF Fertility Center.

Choriocentesis: During pregnancy, the placenta has wispy projections called chorionic villi, which share the baby’s genetic makeup, and testing them can reveal if a baby has a chromosomal disorder such as Down’s syndrome as well as other genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, explains US-based Mayo Clinic.

Amniocentesis: Amniocentesis is a procedure used to remove a small sample of amniotic fluid for testing. It’s the fluid that surrounds the fetus in a pregnant woman, says US-based Johns Hopkins Medicine.

How common is misdiagnosis of sex?

Prime Medical Center Al Quasis Obstetrics and Gynecologist Dr. Smitha Balusamy says surprises like the ones Kristie and Peric received aren’t that common. “With the technology available, misreading the sex of an unborn child is a rarity – the chances of which depend on the method chosen and its timing during pregnancy,” she says.

With the technology available, it is rare to misread the gender of an unborn child.

-Dr Smitha Balusamy

NIPT, she says, is 99% accurate because it analyzes the baby’s DNA. However, if the test is performed before 10 weeks of gestation, the accuracy of the test may be questionable.

Using an ultrasound will give the best results – if the test is done between 18-22 weeks – it is 95-99% accurate.

Invasive tests such as CVS, on the other hand, are usually not done to verify gender, but can accurately diagnose it. These tests can only misinterpret sex in certain rare clinical disorders.

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