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ISRN Obstet Gynecol. 2012;2012:524537. doi: 10.5402/2012/524537. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Why do parents prefer to know the fetal sex as part of invasive prenatal testing?

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Department of Human Genetics, Nijmegen Medical Centre, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



The aim of this study was to determine whether prospective parents, primarily referred for prenatal diagnosis to exclude Down syndrome, prefer to know the fetal sex as part of invasive testing.


In this prospective study 400 pregnant women undergoing amniocentesis were invited to answer a questionnaire, including information about demographic factors, current pregnancy, and previous children. In two open-ended questions they were asked why they wanted to know the fetal sex after amniocentesis or ultrasound investigation. Scores were given for reasons that could have played a role in the wish whether or not to know the sex of their unborn child.


A total of 210 (52.5%) questionnaires were completed. Overall, 69.0% was interested to know the fetal sex as part of the diagnostic test result. The most important reasons were curiosity (77.8%), "just want to know" (68.0%), and "because it is possible" (66.8%). The overall knowledge of sex chromosomal disorders appeared low and did not seem to affect the parent's wish to know the fetal sex. Almost all women (96.6%) planned to have a 20-week ultrasound scan and 96.2% thought the scan to be reliable in detecting the fetal sex. A minority (28%) was willing to learn the fetal sex by ultrasound examination, whereas 65% preferred to learn the fetal sex only after the amniocentesis.


Personal values affect the parental desire to know or not to know the fetal sex. This does not appear to be affected by invasive prenatal testing and/or genetic knowledge of sex chromosomal disorders.

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