IT is a phenomenon that took off in the United States a decade ago, but now gender reveal parties have ballooned so far out of control, they are claiming lives.

Gender reveal parties?
The practice of holding a party where - in its infancy as a concept - a cake was sliced open to reveal either a pink or blue sponge to signal whether or not the unborn baby was male or female.
Often, the ultrasound technician would note the baby's sex and seal it in an envelope to be handed to the baker, so not even the parents would know till the cake was cut.

It began in the US?
In 2008, a “mum blogger”, Jenna Karvunidis, of Pasadena, California, held what is regarded as the first gender reveal party party. The cake was pink and photographs posted online went viral.

Social media has fanned the flames?
It has provided platforms for the practice to take wings, with the hashtag “genderreveal” now bringing up millions of hits.

It’s no longer just cakes?
Growing in popularity are gender reveal piñatas, smashed open to reveal coloured contents, or pink or blue balloons released from boxes. 
Again, popular in the US is the “gender reveal lasagne” where the sheets of pasta, bolognese and cheese are either pink or blue. The “gender reveal lasagne” package retails for $140 (£107) and includes the dyed lasagne, garlic rolls, and salad for 12 people.

The parties are controversial?
Gender activists warn they can harm trans or gender non-confirming children, as well as perpetuating stereotypes by using pink and blue, or by writing slogans on cakes such as "Guns or glitter?" or "Wheels or heels?"

What’s gone wrong?
Wildfires, plane crashes, explosions…take your pick.

In 2017, an expectant father planned to fire a gun at a target that would explode to reveal pink or blue powder during a party at his house in Arizona, but the target contained the explosive Tannerite and the gunshot sparked a massive wildfire. It took 800 firefighters a week to tackle the blaze, at a cost of £8 million.

And a plane crashed?
In September, a pilot flew a crop dusting plane close to the ground in Texas, dropping around 350 gallons of pink water to reveal a friend's baby was to be a girl. But the plane “got too slow” and crashed upside down. A passenger sustained minor injuries.

The explosion?
It took place in Iowa last month when a homemade device supposed to discharge coloured powder, instead exploded like a pipe bomb, killing a 55-year-old grandmother.

Earlier this year, now mother-of-three Ms Karvunidis, said her perspective has shifted as her daughter now expresses herself "in non-binary ways". She wrote on Facebook: “Who cares what gender the baby is? I did at the time because we didn't live in 2019 and didn't know what we know now - that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their potential and talents that have nothing to do with what's between their legs.”