Intended for healthcare professionals

Evidence That Really Matters

Sex—can you get it right?

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1446
  1. Jonathan E C Round, specialist registrar (,
  2. Maesha Deheragoda, senior house officer
  1. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT
  1. Correspondence to: J E C Round

    Neonatologists often get the sex of their patients wrong. A review of the literature on identifying sex from facial appearances yielded one small study from Nashville, Tennessee.1 The low level of success (60%) found by the study suggests either that sex specific characteristics are inconsistent or that adults do not notice them. We wondered whether newborn babies' sex could be determined from their facial characteristics; whether particular facial characteristics, such as delicacy, were associated with the attribution of sex; and whether adults' degree of contact with neonates increased accuracy. The study was approved by the research and ethics committee at Guy's Hospital.

    Participants, methods, and results

    Thirty babies born at term were enrolled consecutively on the postnatal ward at Guy's Hospital. Unwell babies and babies who were not fully Afro-Caribbean or white were excluded. The babies were wrapped, with the face left exposed, and photographed. Eight photographs of Afro-Caribbean babies and 16 of white babies …

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