Dealing with disappointment about your baby’s gender

Dr Nicole Highet
Dr Nicole Highet
Dr Nicole Highet is the Founder of COPE. As well as the Executive Director of COPE (the Centre of Perinatal Excellence). COPE is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to reducing the impacts of emotional and mental health problems in the pre and postnatal periods.
Updated on Jun 14, 2024 · 3 mins read

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Growing up we often have playful conversations with friends of, “I’m going to have two girls and a boy.” You make a plan for your future and get attached to the fantasies of your ideal family.   If this doesn’t end up happening and you have a child with a different sex than you imagined, it’s easy (and common) to feel disappointed.

You may feel saddened upon learning the sex of your baby for various reasons.

These may include:

  • Internally longing to have a boy or a girl
  • Having several other children already of the same sex
  • Feeling concerned that you won’t be able to personally relate to a particular sex
  • Experiencing pressure from family to fulfil their wishes for either a boy or girl.

It is common to experience feelings of fear at the time of finding out the sex, as well as feelings of grief, sadness, and dismay if your hopes are not fulfilled.

It is important to acknowledge your feelings, reflect upon what the causes of this disappointment may be for you and allow yourself to experience all of it. Try to avoid being harsh on yourself as that will only worsen things.

It does not mean that you will not love, or be able to love, your baby. In fact, these sensitivities often disappear after the baby is born as your mothering instincts kick in. Your experience with your baby can also lead to the realisation that your perceptions of what it would be like having a baby of this sex may not reflect reality.

Remember: Acceptance often involves experiencing grief and disappointment. This is natural and understandable – even if not commonly spoken about.

Sex disappointment and sexual abuse

Women who may have experienced abuse as a child can feel anxiety upon learning that they are having a boy – particularly if the abuser was a male. Often these feelings only last during pregnancy and subside once the baby is born and the mother realises the innocence and fragility of a newborn baby. Alternatively, an expectant mother may feel equally anxious about having a girl, for fear of not being able to protect them from a potential abuser.

It is for this reason women are commonly asked about factors known to increase their risk of developing mental health issues and assess if they are currently experiencing common symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. This usually includes asking about their previous experiences of abuse so that such issues can be identified and they can seek help to resolve them.

Getting help and support

Acceptance of your baby’s gender and overcoming the feelings of grief and disappointment usually pass with time and understanding. Talking with someone you trust or a non-judgemental friend can also help you gain support and understanding.

However, if you are finding that you are not coping with these feelings and they are impacting your feelings towards the baby, talking to a health professional can certainly help.

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