In the U.S., women who want to know the sex of their babies generally need to wait until at least 10 weeks. If the parents want to avoid any tests with a small risk of miscarriage, they must wait until 11 weeks for an ultrasound that will be accurate. Tests that determine sex at only 7 weeks are widely available in Europe. They work by detecting fetal DNA in a sample of the mother’s blood, basically if they find fetal DNA containing Y chromosomes, then congrats it’s a boy! If not then YAY! It’s a girl! It is also possible the test just didn’t detect any fetal DNA. These tests may be ordered online in the U.S., but aren’t used here often.
There are a few reasons as to why they aren’t used much. The tests themselves cost around $25 but the lab costs to have the results analyzed can cost over $250. Some women do get them through their doctors- if there is worry about sex specific genetic disorders, determining the sex early can rule out the need for further genetic testing, if a parent is a carrier of a disorder that only affects boys and the baby is a girl, there is no need to test for it. For the most part though doctors here don’t use them because they aren’t regulated and there are no guidelines the labs testing them must follow.
Another reason for lack of use is that there have been no real measures of their accuracy. A meta-study conducted by Tufts University has changed that. They looked at almost 60 different studies that covered over 6000 pregnancies and determined that blood based sex tests, when done after 7 weeks gestation have a 95%-99% accuracy rate.
Anti-abortion activists in the country have jumped on this news to once again attack a woman’s right to choose. They point to recent studies showing rabid amounts of sex selection in extreme misogynistic countries like China and India that have created a pandemic shortage of women and say “Look, see! America will be next if we allow abortion to continue!”
The makers of the tests state clearly that their tests are not designed to be used in sex selection, one company, IntelliGender, even states in their FAQ’s that results from the test should not be used to “make any financial, emotional, or family planning decisions… This includes painting a nursery!” Some companies won’t sell their product in India and China because there are high rates of sex selection in those places. Consumer Genetics makes their customers sign a waiver saying they won’t use the results for sex selection. Plus in reality, if the person carrying the pregnancy has decided they don’t want a child of a specific sex no matter what, well they will abort whether they find out at 7 weeks or at 13. This hasn’t stopped anti-abortion activists from using it to promote their anti-abortion agenda.