Some health boards in Scotland will no longer reveal the sex of an unborn baby to pregnant women for fear of legal action if they get it wrong.
According to documents obtained after Freedom of Information requests, four NHS boards out of 14 – Grampian, Forth Valley, Orkney and Shetland – no longer reveal an unborn baby’s gender, which means parents-to-be hoping to find out the sex of their baby may have to opt for a paid-for private scan.
As reported by The Sunday Post, one health board allegedly changed the policy as hospital staff were subjected to “verbal abuse” when they were unable to tell whether the baby was a boy or girl.
And according to hospital sources, there have also been threats of legal action by parents who were told the wrong gender, according to hospital sources.
Yahoo UK have contacted all four Scottish health boards for comment.
An NHS Grampian spokesperson said it stopped commenting on fetal sex in 2006. “The decision was made to stop commenting on gender because of capacity issues and staff being verbally abused if they could not identify the gender.”
The spokesperson went on to say that in 2013 the issue was raised again and the decision was made to continue as before. “The gender of a baby does not affect fetal wellbeing and therefore there was no indication to look for it.”
They also added that a line is to be inserted in policy documents which will state that “gender is not determined” unless there is a medical condition identified in the womb.
A spokesperson for NHS Orkney revealed that the health board does not provide information about the sex of a baby. “NHS Orkney work in accordance with NHS Grampian’s policy. We do not have our own policy document,” the statement explains.
NHS Forth Valley told Yahoo Style in a statement that sonographers “do not routinely inform prospective parents of the sex of their unborn baby as it’s not always possible to accurately identify the sex during antenatal scans. This has been the policy for more than 10 years and is not a recent development or change.”
Meanwhile Kate Kenmure, Child and Family Health Manager at NHS Shetland said: “NHS Shetland does not provide a service to reveal an unborn baby’s gender through an ultrasound – unless it is clinically necessary.
“All ultrasound scans are performed for clinical reasons e.g. fetal anomaly scans at 20 weeks gestation to visualise the heart, spine etc.
“These scans all take a considerable amount of time and all women are offered this service.”
Following the news the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said that many parents were left disappointed at not having the opportunity to discover the sex of their unborn baby.
“Naturally, while having a scan many parents want to find out the sex of their baby,”said Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the NCT.
“It’s exciting, enables them to plan and can help with bonding. However, due to many factors such as the clarity of the images and position of the baby, the sonographer cannot guarantee they will accurately identify the baby’s gender.”
Justine Roberts, the co-founder of Mumsnet, said: “It’s confusing that different health boards have different policies. Perhaps some could do a better job of expectation management by explaining their policy clearly earlier in the pregnancy.”
The news comes as last year there were calls from the Labour party for parents-to-be to be banned from taking a blood test to find out the gender of their babies in the early stages of pregnancy.
The call stems from concerns the test could lead to a rise in the abortion of baby girls because there is a preference towards boys in some cultures.
The non-invasive pre-natal test (NIPT) is actually used to detect genetic conditions in pregnancy such as Down’s Syndrome and is due to be rolled out by the NHS as an additional part of its antenatal screening services.
But as the test can also be used to detect the sex of the baby, some MPs have raised concerns the tests could be misused.
Back in 2017 a study revealed that some mums-to-be are splashing out millions of pounds on unnecessary baby scans during their pregnancy and fuelling a culture of ‘scanxiety’.
For many mums the only time they get to see their unborn baby is during the routine NHS scans they attend at 12 and 20 weeks to check the baby’s development. But almost a third of pregnant women are forking out for expensive private ultrasounds as well.
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