Posted on March 13th, 2017 by wombwithaviewblog.com

Deciphering fetal sex can be a very difficult job, especially when trying to read an image taken by someone else! Sometimes, it’s a piece of cake.

So often, when readers send me their images for a second opinion on fetal sex, I just cannot provide a confirmatory guess. This is either due to too early gestational age, too poor an angle, or too poor an image. Sometimes, it is a combo of all three!

Ultrasound is such a different animal because it is nothing like just looking at a photo of someone and recognizing that person. In a photo, you can see what’s in the distance or up close to the camera. With ultrasound, we cannot. We can only see exactly what is directly under the probe. It is a 2D (two-dimensional) image only, and we have to move the probe around to obtain different angles to create that “photograph” in our minds. And there are so many variables that go into creating a good ultrasound image.

Since ultrasound is completely subjective and observer-dependent, some sonographers take great images and some..well..don’t. It’s much like comparing a professional photograph to an out-of-focus, too dark, cell phone group portrait where everyone has red or white eyes. You know, the ones you always see posted on social media?

I am too much of a perfectionist. This wasn’t always a good thing when trying to take keepsake photos for patients because it caused me to run late on more than one occasion. And everyone knows people don’t like to wait in a medical office! Factors to take into consideration are maternal and fetal position, angle, magnification, depth, as well as brightness and contrast of the image. It’s a learned skill and some are simply better at it than others. Some just don’t tweak all the knobs as much as they should. Maybe they were never really taught how to do so very well.

And some things that cause a poor image are just beyond a sonographer’s control..like an uncooperative fetus, extra weight around a patient’s abdomen, or a gassy patient. This has everything to do with the laws of ultrasound physics which dictate the further sound waves have to travel, the poorer the image; also, sound does not travel well through air or gas. I’ve scanned heavier patients where I could see pretty well and thinner, gassy patients where I struggled to see at all! That said, I can tell when an image is not great or when she didn’t work with all the knobs. This can make reading an image snapped by someone else extraordinarily difficult. One image represents only one angle. Scanning real-time allows me to look from all angles possible, where I can subjectively determine my confidence in fetal sex..or whether a guess is too risky at all.

ALL that said, sometimes taking a second guess is easy-peasy. Check out the email I received from a reader about whether her baby is a boy. Her images didn’t leave much of a question in my mind:) She was just over 20 Weeks along. Can you tell what she’s having?

mama: Hello, I’ve been following your blog, and I was wondering if you could take a look at my baby’s scans and give me your opinion on gender. We were told it’s a boy, but I’ve read that girls can have parts that look similar to boys? I agree that it looks like a boy, but wanted a second opinion. Thanks!

male fetal sex

male fetal sex

wwavblogger: LOL No ma’am! Little girls don’t normally look like that at 20wks! I will wager my bet on a baby boy:) Congrats!

mama: Lol! I wasn’t quite sure but I’ve had a feeling it’s a boy from the beginning of the pregnancy!

Reader mom! I forgot to mention in my reply to you that, yes, girls and boys can indeed look similar, but that is more true between the 12-16 Week range when parts are small, just developing, and when combined with other factors that come into play which result in limited visualization!

Did you guess boy? If so, I agree! Compare the images I’ve edited below.

boy parts1-jpeg

boy parts2-jpeg

Even though it would be quite unusual for this to be a baby girl, I’m still always a bit cautious about guessing fetal sex based on someone else’s image. When I’m casting a vote for Team Blue, I like to ensure I see a scrotal sac which requires a slightly lower angle. Sometimes, you can obtain both scrotal sac and penis in the same image, sometimes not. I get a slight impression of a scrotal sac here where I placed the circle. The sac at this age can appear quite small, and testicles are not expected to descend until about 26-28 Weeks. This is why scanning real-time helps; it allows me to see Baby at all angles possible, while moving and stretching and opening his legs more.

Stay tuned! My next post will be one where a questionable and poorly technical image comes into play. Mom wrote back saying she delivered the opposite sex. Oops!

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