In years past, family planning meant leaving things to chance. Today, that’s changed in almost every measurable way—including determining the sex of your baby. In other words, if you’re going the IVF route, you may have the opportunity to give input on whether your family grows by a little boy or girl.
How does gender selection through IVF work, and is it something you should consider? Here’s a closer look at this futuristic process and what it could mean for your family.
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How Does Sex Selection Through IVF Work?
While prenatal sex or gender selection might sound like a far-fetched idea, it’s actually a standard process in fertility clinics worldwide, and just one aspect of the genetic testing embryos undergo before implantation.
This procedure is known as preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) or preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). While the primary goal of PGS is to limit parents from passing down inherited diseases, it also gives doctors an up-close look at the chromosomes that determine sex.
Here’s how it works. A few days after eggs and sperm are combined in the lab, the future parents can choose whether to have the embryos screened for genetic abnormalities. This involves putting each embryo under a microscope and removing a few cells for analysis. Fertility specialists will determine whether the chromosomes look as they should, and in the process, will see whether they contain XX (girl) or XY (boy) chromosomes.
At this point, the process can differ by the clinic. Some fertility doctors will keep this information quiet, while others will share it with interested parents. Assuming that there are healthy embryos of both sexes available, parents may be able to specify their gender preference before implantation.
While no medical test is guaranteed 100% accurate, studies indicate that gender-based genetic screening has a success rate of over 99%.
Are You a Candidate for Sex Selection Through IVF?
There are a variety of reasons to consider sex selection through IVF. You might be a candidate if you have:
- Family history of genetic disease: Sex selection may be a literal lifesaver if parents are carriers of sex-linked genetic disorders like muscular dystrophy or fragile-X syndrome. Parents can screen and select for the gender that won’t be susceptible to the condition.
- A desire for a balanced family: In some cases, parents choose sex selection through IVF to ensure their family includes both boys and girls. However, some fertility specialists frown against this use.
- The psychological need for a specific gender: Sometimes, parents have strong preferences for their baby’s gender. For example, they may have lost a child previously and feel that having the same sex again may be too painful.
Cost of Sex Selection Through IVF
IVF treatments are known for being expensive, and genetic screening is another cost to consider. Prices vary, but plan to spend between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for testing—sometimes even per embryo.
While most insurance companies won’t cover PGD testing, that stands to change in the future as the average maternal age continues to increase. Older moms are at greater risk of having babies with genetic defects, so pre-screening will lead to healthier babies and better chances of completing a successful pregnancy.
Is Sex Selection Through IVF Ethical?
The topic of embryo sex selection has spurred discussion of several ethical questions. Is this chromosome inspection setting a precedent that will lead to parents choosing other desirable character traits for their future children? Some fear that sex selection will lead to a global gender imbalance if society starts to show preferences for one gender over another.
For now, these concerns are unfounded, and sex selection is mainly limited to maximizing the chance that every parent will have a healthy baby. Choosing the most viable embryos remains the primary goal, with information about the baby’s sex an exciting bonus for those who want it.
Ultimately, every parent’s situation is unique, and everyone has the right to pursue sex selection with a fertility expert if it feels like the right choice for their family.