Have you always dreamt of having a little girl? Or maybe your heart is set on having a little boy? Well, new technologies are now allowing some couples to choose the sex of their child before pregnancy. Many couples wish to have a child of a particular sex in order to prevent certain medical illness or to help balance their families. Sex selection procedures are now available at fertility clinics worldwide to help couples conceive a child of the desired gender. Sex selection is a hotly debated procedure, though, and is associated with many ethical, moral, and legal concerns.
What is Sex Selection?
Sex selection, or gender selection, is any method used to increase your chances of having a child of a specific gender. Every egg contains one X chromosome while sperm contain either an X chromosome or a Y chromosome. When an X-bearing sperm fertilizes an egg, a girl is conceived, and when a Y-bearing sperm fertilizes an egg, a boy is conceived. Typically, you have about a 50% of conceiving a male child and a 50% chance of conceiving a female child. Sex selection techniques work to increase the odds in favor of having either a male or female child.
The History of Sex Selection
Gender selection has actually been around for centuries; in fact, methods of sex selection were recorded in hieroglyphics by the Ancient Egyptians. In the past, sex selection has relied on certain sexual positions, timing, or special foods eaten during pregnancy. But these methods are based on little or no scientific evidence, and don’t really increase your chances of having either a boy or a girl. Recent advances in technology, however, have allowed for sex selection to become much more precise and effective. Through these technologies, couples can significantly improve their chances of having a child of a specific sex.
Why Sex Selection?
The reasons for undergoing baby gender selection are numerous. The most typical reasons for choosing sex selection procedures include:
- Genetic Disease: Some couples are afraid of passing certain genetic diseases on to their children. There are genetic disorders associated with male children, such as hemophilia and muscular dystrophy. In order to avoid having a child with these disorders, some parents choose to have a female child.
- Family Balancing: Family balancing is also a popular reason to turn to sex selection. Couples who have already had a child often would like to have another child of the opposite sex, in order to balance their family.
- Death of a Child: Unfortunately, some parents lose their children at a very young age. Sex selection provides these couples with the chance of having another child of the same gender.
There are also certain cultural, economic, and social reasons for having a child of a specific gender.
Methods of Sex Selection
There are currently three types of sex selection procedures available.
The gradient method is one the simplest forms of sex selection technology. Sperm from the father is placed in a rapidly spinning machine called a centrifuge. As it spins, this machine helps to separate sperm with Y-chromosomes from those with X-chromosomes, which are heavier due to more genetic material. Sperm with the desired chromosome is then used in IUI in order to produce a child of the desired sex. The gradient method is associated with poorer success rates, but it is also less expensive than other sex selection options.
Flow cytometry is another sperm sorting technique. It uses fluorescent dye to highlight sperm that carry X chromosomes. This fluorescent dye adheres to genetic material within the sperm. Because X-bearing sperm contain more genetic material, these sperm pick up more dye than the Y-bearing sperm. A laser machine is then used to separate the two types of sperm. The sperm with the appropriate chromosomes are then used in IUI or IVF. Success rates with flow cytometry are high: you have a 60% to 70% of conceiving a child of the desired gender.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
PGD is one of the most successful methods when it comes to gender selection. This is a complex procedure that involves the creation of embryos that are then analyzed for cell structure and DNA. Embryos are created in a laboratory and allowed to divide. After three or four days, one cell from each dividing embryo is removed and analyzed for DNA and genetic material. Once the sex of the embryos are determined, only those embryos of the desired sex are implanted into the mother’s uterus through IVF. PGD is highly successful, giving you a 99% chance of having a child of the desired gender.
Costs of Sex Selection
Sex selection isn’t cheap, so it shouldn’t be done lightly. The gradient method is the most inexpensive procedure – one cycle of IUI with sperm selection will cost around $600. Flow cytometry is currently only available as part of a limited FDA-study. PGD testing costs between $2,000 and $4,000 plus the costs of IVF procedures.
Ethical and Legal Concerns
Sex selection is hotly debated in countries all over the world. This is because the sex selection procedures go against the moral and ethical concerns of many people. Some argue that sex selection perpetuates sexual discrimination and stereotyping. Many worry that sex selection will have a negative impact on the ratio of male to female births in certain countries. Others worry that it will lead to the desire to select other characteristics of our children, including hair color, eye color, and intelligence level. For these reasons sex selection based on non-medical reasons has been banned in certain countries.
Sex selection is available at fertility clinics throughout the United States. To date, there is no body that governs sex selection procedures and fertility clinics may offer it at their own discretion. However, sex selection techniques are typically only offered for those concerned about genetic disorders. Sex selection based on non-medical reasons is illegal in both Britain and Canada. If you are interested in sex selection techniques, be sure to contact your local government authorities for information in the laws in your country or state.