How to Handle Gender Disappointment During Pregnancy

Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen, BSN, RN

Finding out the gender of your baby is always a big deal, but what happens when it’s not the gender you were hoping for? Insert something called, gender disappointment.

It’s totally normal to feel a little bummed out when you were expecting a baby girl and found out you’re having a boy – or vice versa.

And it actually happens to a lot more people than you might think.

Read on to learn more about what it is, why it happens, and how to cope! We’ll also discuss ways to feel more positive about your baby’s gender and how to bond with your baby during pregnancy.

Let’s go!

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What is gender disappointment?

Gender disappointment during pregnancy is a feeling of sadness, disappointment, or even anger when the sex of the baby doesn’t match up with what you were hoping for.

It’s a very normal and common experience that many women go through, so it’s important to know that you’re not alone if you’re feeling this way.

While many people assume that gender disappointment only happens when someone is hoping for a specific gender, it can actually happen for a variety of reasons, which I’ll get into below.

Gender disappointment is actually more common than you might think. In fact, studies have shown that up to 20% of expectant parents experience some level of gender disappointment during their pregnancy.

Why does gender disappointment happen?

It’s usually because we have a strong preference for one gender over the other. Maybe you always pictured yourself as a girl mom, or maybe you wanted a little mini-me to dress up in cute outfits.

It can also be related to cultural expectations or fear of not being able to connect with a child of the opposite sex.

Let’s look at some other examples of why someone might experience gender disappointment – because I want you to know you are definitely not alone:

  • Maybe you grew up with all sisters and have always dreamed of having a little girl of your own. The thought of having a boy might feel foreign or uncomfortable
  • On the flip side, maybe you grew up with all brothers and were hoping for a boy to continue the tradition. Finding out you’re having a girl might feel disappointing because it’s not what you’re used to
  • Perhaps you’ve always had a special bond with the opposite sex and feel more comfortable around people of that gender. The idea of having a baby of the same sex might make you feel anxious or uncertain
  • You may have had a difficult relationship with a parent of the same sex as your baby. This can cause anxiety or fear about connecting with your own child

How to cope with gender disappointment

But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to cope with this feeling! Let me share some tips and advice:

  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t try to push them away or deny them
  • Don’t judge yourself for feeling this way. Remember that it’s okay to feel disappointed, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent
  • Try to reframe your thoughts by focusing on the qualities you want your child to have, rather than their gender
  • Keep in mind that gender doesn’t determine your child’s personality, interests, or abilities Encourage your child to explore their own interests and hobbies, regardless of societal expectations based on gender
  • Focus on the positives. Your baby is going to be a unique and special little person, and you’re going to love them no matter what
  • Get involved in preparing for baby by creating a registry or decorating the nursery. This will keep you busy and engaged and may help you feel more positive
  • Talk to someone you trust, like a friend or your healthcare provider. It really helps to get your feelings out in the open
  • Consider seeking professional counseling or therapy if you’re struggling to cope with your feelings of disappointment
  • Look for a support group for parents who have experienced gender disappointment. It can be a relief to talk to others who are going through the same thing as you – online communities are a great place to look for this!

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to cope with gender disappointment.

The most important thing is to prioritize your emotional well-being and work through your feelings in a healthy and supportive way.

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How to feel more positive about your baby’s gender

Before your baby arrives, try these tips to feel more positive about their gender:

  • Start a Pinterest board for baby names. Even if you’re not sure what you want to name your baby, creating a board with names you like can help you feel more connected to your little one
  • Think about all the fun things you can do with your baby regardless of their gender. For example, you can go on nature walks, read books together, and sing silly songs. Bonding with your baby doesn’t have to be gender-specific
  • Create a baby registry with gender-neutral items. You can always add more gender-specific items later, but having a registry with items like blankets, onesies, and toys in neutral colors can help you feel more prepared and excited for your baby’s arrival
  • Join a social media group for parents with babies of the same gender as yours. This can be a great way to connect with other parents who are going through the same thing as you and share tips and advice
  • Try to think about the positive aspects of having a baby of the gender you’re having
  • Start planning your baby’s nursery. Decorating a room for your little one can be a fun way to get excited about their arrival, regardless of their gender
  • Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling. It’s important to have open and honest communication with your partner so they can support you during this time

Related Reading: The Only Second Trimester To-Do List You’ll Need! From an L&D Nurse

How to bond with your baby during pregnancy

I think it makes sense to talk about some ways that you can bond with your baby during pregnancy. While these tips can be used by any pregnant mama – they might be extra helpful for you as you’re coping with gender disappointment.

  • Sing and talk to your baby: Your baby can hear your voice, so take some time every day to sing and talk to them. This can help you feel more connected to baby and remind you that there is a little person in there! I know it sounds weird, but sometimes you forget that
  • Keep a pregnancy journal: Write down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences during your pregnancy. This can be a great way to reflect on the journey and bond with your baby – and process the aspects of pregnancy that are challenging right now
  • Play music for your baby: Play some music that you enjoy, and try out some classical or calming music, too. Studies have shown that playing music for baby can help their brain development – and they can hear it as early as 16 weeks! They might even give you some movement or a kick in response
  • Practice meditation or yoga: Find some relaxation techniques that work for you and try to practice them daily. Taking some intentional time to be present with your thoughts, your body, and your baby will help you feel more connected
  • Touch your belly: Place your hand on your belly and gently rub it to feel your baby’s movements. This can help you feel closer to your baby and more connected
  • Have a maternity photoshoot: Capture your pregnancy journey with a maternity photoshoot. This can be a fun way to document this special time and bond with your partner
  • Connect with other expectant parents: Join a prenatal group or attend meetups for expecting parents. This can be a great way to bond with others who are going through the same experience

Related Reading: 8 Fun Things to do During Pregnancy

What if my partner is experiencing gender disappointment?

If a pregnant woman’s partner is experiencing gender disappointment, it can be a tough situation for both of them. It’s important to remember that your partner’s feelings are valid, just as yours are, and that there are things you can do to support them.

One of the most important things you can do is to listen to your partner and let them express their feelings. Don’t try to downplay their emotions or dismiss them as unimportant. Show empathy and try to understand where they’re coming from.

You can also try to help your partner focus on the positives by using some of the tips in the list above. Start getting your partner to think about names and planning for the baby, to help them feel more connected to the pregnancy and excited about the future.

The path forward

In the end, remember that your baby is going to be amazing no matter what. Give yourself time to process your feelings, stay positive, and know that you’re not alone!

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Liesel Teen, BSN-RN
Founder, Mommy Labor Nurse

Meet Liesel Teen

Hi there. I’m Liesel!

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

When you know what to expect and have the tools to navigate the experience, you’ll feel confident and in control.

I believe you deserve a better birth — no matter how you deliver.