Doctors wary of baby gender test kit

The "IntelliGender" urine test, which its maker claims can predict the gender of an unborn child with 82 per cent accuracy, will be on sale next week across the UAE.

DUBAI // Many expectant mothers will go to almost any length to learn the sex of their unborn child as soon as possible. Now they are being given the chance to do it in the privacy of their own home, as early as the 10th week of their pregnancy. The "IntelliGender" urine test, which its maker claims can predict the gender of an unborn child with 82 per cent accuracy, will be on sale next week in pharmacies across the UAE, the first country in the Middle East to make the product available.

However, doctors said women would be unwise to get too carried away by the result of a test that had a one-in-five chance of being wrong. "It is not recommended to rely on the results of a test that is only 82 per cent accurate, that early in a pregnancy," said Dr Afaf el Ghanimi, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Health Plus Women's Health Centre in Abu Dhabi. The most accurate way to determine a baby's gender was through an ultrasound scan, which could provide answers as early as the 13th week of pregnancy, she said.

"It's a personal, curiosity thing that makes a family want to know if it's a boy or a girl. There is no benefit to the knowledge other than buying baby clothes and painting the nursery," Dr el Ghanimi said. Dr Anitha Agnel, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who practises in Abu Dhabi and will soon be returning to her practice in India, said she encountered a great deal of curiosity about an unborn baby's gender among parents here.

"Women care about old wives' tales here," she said. "If their stomach is higher, it's a girl. If they are eating certain foods, then it's a boy. There are so many myths connected. It's all a guessing game and they will find out soon enough." Dr el Ghanimi agreed with Dr Agnel. Most of her patients are Arab expatriates and Emiratis. All wanted to know their baby's gender, she said. "Working in Libya and the UK, I never encountered such curiosity," said Dr el Ghanimi. "Here, a mother may have two boys and two girls already, and still be dying to know."

Expectant mothers tend to schedule ultrasound appointments with various doctors, to double- and triple-check the gender of their child. "For some reason, they are more concerned with the baby's gender than whether or not it is a healthy or normal baby," said Dr el Ghanimi. "I haven't seen this anywhere else in the world." Jumana al Saifi, 33, said there was just one reason she wanted to know the sex of her baby, which is due in five months - choosing a name.

"Instead of having to think of both a boy's name and a girl's name, it will save me time and effort," she said. Her sister-in-law, Reem Nasrallah, is expecting a child in seven months. She sees the benefit in using a home gender detection test. "My husband does not want to know the gender of the child and wants the element of surprise," she said. "I hate surprises. This way, I can have an idea what to expect without asking about the gender during the ultrasound. If the test is not accurate, then I might still end up surprised." This article has been altered to reflect that the Health Plus Women's Health Centre is located in Abu Dhabi and not Dubai as originally stated.