IVF Sex Selection

What Do You Want? A Boy or A Girl?

One has to wonder if we've come so far that we've lost sight of some seriously important factors. Do you wonder where the wonder has gone? There was a time when a woman was simply thankful that she was pregnant and was hoping that everything would go well and the baby would be born normal and healthy and strong.

Today, women are determining whether they want to have a boy or a girl and they have help in facilitating the choice. Thanks to advanced fertility treatments, doctors can now create or identify embryos of a certain sex. However, the sex-selection options aren't necessarily cost effective, affordable or even available.

It's Not As Easy As It Seems

As is common in most things, the most effective and accurate methods also happen to be the most expensive of the lot, costing in the tens of thousands of dollars and often requiring invasive IVF treatments with a side order of fertility drugs complete with side effects. At this point, in order to avail yourself of these techniques you still have to meet with very strict eligibility criteria and, in some cases, if you're not married and already have at least one child of the opposite sex for which you are trying, you're disqualified. Age limits are also in place and hormone tests to prove you aren't perimenopausal are often required.


There are a variety of gender selection methods to choose from that rely on one of two existing infertility treatment: in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). If you choose IVF, then you start out with a round of fertility drugs designed to stimulate your ovaries so you produce more than one egg when you ovulate. These eggs are all necessary for fertilization purposes. The same process will likely be used for IUI, a treatment in which the doctor uses a catheter to inject a concentrated sperm sample directly into your uterus.

IVF uses a system of fertilization that happens outside the uterus, in a Petri dish. In vitro means in glass - or as some interpret it, out of the womb. You are anesthetized and the doctor inserts a needle through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries. Eggs are withdrawn, fertilized in a Petri dish and in two to five days the eggs, which have now become embryos, are replaced in your uterus by means of a thin catheter. Depending upon how old you are and your reproductive history, you will have two or maybe more embryos transferred to your uterus. With any luck at least one of them will implant and in about 42 weeks, you'll be a mom.

PGD in Action

There are several methods for determining sex of an embryo, the most successful being preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This IVF technique encourages the growth of embryos outside the womb and then the embryos are tested for genetic disorders and sex determination. Originally, back in 1989 when the process was first developed, the sole reason for using it was to determine serious genetic disorders in order to reduce the risk of bringing a child into the world with it. Today, PGD is still used for genetic testing, but it is also primarily used with women who are older than 35 and have a history of recurrent miscarriages. There aren't many clinics that offer gender selection for non-medical reasons.

This method is almost 100 percent effective in determining gender and genetic disorders. The testing is performed by removing a cell or cells from fertilized eggs (from the Petri dish) that are three to five days old. They are tested at that point for gender.

Rather than determining embryo health through a microscope, as it used to be done, with PGD, the embryos are tested thoroughly for genetic abnormalities and sex. The transfer of only healthy embryos to the uterus reduces the risk of miscarriage or genetic disorders in a child. If a woman is 35 years old or older, then amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling are recommended to determine if any more genetic issues arise later in the pregnancy.

Here's Hoping There's Only One

As a rule, PGD doctors only transfer two embryos to a woman's uterus during this process. If a woman is older, then they may transfer more. However, since they've already sorted out the good embryos from the problematic ones that may not implant, transferring more than two is almost redundant, especially in younger women.

The value to this process is that if you do conceive, you have an almost 100 percent certainly that you'll have the gender you desire. Right after the PGD cycle, all remaining embryos are frozen and can be used in another attempt should you miscarry or decide you want more children. The fact that you already have the embryos reduces the cost of the procedure.

What Will You Do With the Leftover Eggs?

On the disadvantage side of the equation, this experiment is very costly. We're talking about $20,000. This invasive procedure to remove eggs can be painful and there can be uncomfortable side effects from the fertility drugs you'll have to take. The risk of multiple births is high since more than one embryo will be transferred and, if you're older, the likelihood of a live birth goes down. Perhaps the most disconcerting negative effect of the entire process is the decision of what you will do with the embryos of the gender you didn't want. Will you freeze, destroy, or donate to other couples or research? It's a difficult decision. Are you up for it?

The debate is ongoing when it comes to gender selection. Learn more about the various ways to determine gender by reading articles in this section.

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