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2. Fetal Sex

The local policy with regards to determining the fetal sex should be clearly displayed in the ultrasound department and women and their partners should be advised of the policy in advance of the scan, for example, on the appointment letter.

Where local policy is to determine fetal sex, procedures should be organised so that women are able to state clearly whether or not they want to be given this information. This should ideally be prior to the commencement of the scan.  It is the mother who consents to the ultrasound examination and hence   the sonographer needs to be particularly sensitive to their  wishes in this regard.  

There have been instances where complaints and litigation have resulted from an incorrect report of the fetal sex being given. Information should be provided to the mother at the time of the scan about the likely accuracy of fetal sex determination by ultrasound. This will also be influenced by the gestational age at which the assessment is undertaken and departments may wish to consider the minimum gestational age at which they will report the fetal sex. It is in any event not always possible to give an opinion of the fetal sex owing to the fetus lying in a technically difficult position or to poor overall visualisation.

There is no requirement to determine fetal sex within the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme in England or the equivalent programmes in Scotland and Wales; it is not part of the 18w – 20w 6d fetal anomaly scan ‘base menu’.1, 2,,3  There is no Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme requirement to recall or re-book the mother if the fetal sex is not able to be identified simply owing to poor visualisation or difficult fetal position. 

When applicable, the sex of the fetus should be recorded on the formal ultrasound report.

Where Trust or Health Board policy is not to determine the fetal sex that policy must also extend to the consideration of the situation where the mother is aware that the sonographer has identified the sex of the fetus but policy prevents the information being relayed to the mother. 

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