SOME health boards are refusing to tell pregnant women the gender of their unborn baby – because of the threat of legal action if they get it wrong.
Prospective parents in some areas are now paying for private scans to discover whether they are having a boy or a girl.
Of the 14 NHS boards in Scotland, four do not reveal the unborn baby’s gender, according to documents obtained after Freedom of Information requests.
One health board changed the policy as hospital staff were subjected to “verbal abuse” when they were unable to tell whether it was a boy or girl.
The threat of legal action and fears some parents may terminate pregnancies after being told the gender has also led to some boards refusing requests.
One midwife, who asked not to be named, said: “There were threats of lawsuits if we got it wrong.”
There have also been threats of legal action by parents who were told the wrong gender, according to hospital sources.
Annie Wells MSP, Conservative spokeswoman for Mental Health, Public Health and Equalities, said: “While health boards are entitled to implement their own policies in this area, parents will be confused at this apparent postcode lottery.”
NHS Grampian said they stopped offering the service after sonographers received “verbal abuse” when they could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl.
There are posters in hospital waiting rooms “advising of non-gender testing”, according to a spokesperson for the health board.
The NHS Grampian spokesperson added that a new 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.
Hospitals in Orkney and Shetland also refuse to reveal the baby’s gender during scans.
“It is not our policy to look for the sex,” a spokesperson for NHS Orkney said.
NHS Shetland’s scans “does not include gender”, according to their response.
NHS Forth Valley’s sonographers “do not look for or inform the prospective parents of the sex of the unborn baby,” according to the health board.
One midwife, who also asked not to be named, said: “There were threats of legal action if we got it wrong.
“And some women no longer nurtured the pregnancy if they were told it was a girl.”
Another midwife who also asked to remain anonymous, added: “Mistakes happen.
“I had a case where a couple were told they were having a wee girl and everything they had was pink, the nursery was decorated pink, and then they had a boy.”
The National Childbirth Trust charity suggested many expectant parents are left disappointed when they are denied the chance to find out their unborn baby’s gender.
Senior policy adviser Elizabeth Duff said: “Naturally, while having a scan many parents want to find out the sex of their baby – 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.”
Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts 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, but Mumsnet users feel strongly no NHS staff member should be abused just for doing their job.”