A maternity hospital in South Essex has launched a trial in association with the local registry office where parents can choose to have their babies registered as ‘gender neutral’ – they are then offered the chance to make that decision on or after their sixteenth birthday.

Midwife Sally Popout-Swift of the Canewdon Early Beginnings Unit was the mastermind behind the ‘Deferred Gender Allocation Scheme,’ and she told Southend News Network that she was delighted that the local authority had decided to launch a three-month trial of the initiative.

She said: ‘I was with a lady in the final stages of labour, and just as my colleague was joyfully shouting ‘it’s a boy’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘what gives you the right to make that decision or judgement?’

‘The following day, I met with a local registrar and they agreed with me that this approach was entirely suitable for 2017 Britain, and so after a few phone calls with the county council it was agreed that I could try out the DGAS.’

‘All of the medical staff in the unit are asked to make no verbal or written reference to gender while they are on duty, and before the mums and dads go home they can visit a purpose built registry office on site and complete something called an Interim Birth Certificate – this is sometimes referred to as a D453 form by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.’

‘This form has no space for gender to be marked, and on the child’s 16th birthday an appointment letter will be sent to their parents along with a booklet so they can make the most informed choice.’

We asked Ms Popout-Swift what would happen if parents decided to go for the more traditional approach and choose their baby’s gender shortly after the birth.

She said: ‘We will naturally respect that decision, although we can offer a unique registration service here where we are able to apply a 14-day cooling off period just in case they change their mind.’