Last Updated on June 6, 2019
Did you know that IVF gender selection is a possibility right now? In fact, this practice is quite popular among celebrities. This has led to contradictory opinions, some people being surprised that this is even a possibility, while others have expressed concerned viewpoints due to the ethical reasons.
In short, gender selection allows you to purposefully choose the sex of your baby during IVF, depending on your preferences. This procedure may also be referred to as family balancing. As for the accuracy of the operation, according to experts, the accuracy index is of 99 percent.
How Does IVF Gender Selection Work?
The gender of the embryo is decided by the chromosomes in the sperm. Thus, the sperm may carry the X or the Y chromosome, as the woman’s egg provides the X chromosome solely to the fertilized embryo. If the sperm has the Y chromosome, then this will lead to the creation of a male baby (XY). Meanwhile, if the sperm has the X chromosome, then this will produce a female baby (XX).
According to experts, after the creation of the embryos in vitro, most of the times, they undergo a screening process. This is done in order to choose the healthiest embryos before they are to be implanted in the mother’s womb. Hence, the Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) entails a thorough analysis of every embryo prior to the implantation.
Concurrently, one of the other reasons why this screening is necessary is preventing the likelihood of miscarriage. So, if a couple has had miscarriages in the past, or former failed IVF cycles, the screening is ultimately necessary to increase the odds of success. In the case of a regular cycle, the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy is of 50 to 60 percent. Meanwhile, screened embryos increase those chances up to 60 to 70 percent.
Gender Selection and the IVF Procedure
Several days after the actual fertilization of the egg in vitro, a single cell is removed out of each developing embryo. This procedure is done by a specialist using a microscopic glass needle and a laser. Note that this procedure doesn’t harm the embryo in any way. This further enables the embryologist to analyze in detail the genetic makeup of the cell, as well as its gender.
Furthermore, the quality of each embryo is investigated, so that only the ones of the desired sex are transferred.
A Closer Look at PGS (Preimplantation Genetic Screening)
PGS is a procedure that has been used for over a decade by specialists in order to separate healthy embryos from embryos with genetic mutations. This process entails mostly the same steps as the original IVF cycle – namely the intake of fertility medications, egg retrieval and manufactured fertilization. The embryos are left on their own for roughly five days. Throughout this time, they divide into multiple cells.
The PGS procedure may take about a week or so. During this time, the embryos remain frozen as you patiently wait for the time of the implantation.
Originally, PGS has been used for pointing out the existence of genetic abnormalities. At the moment, it has become widely used for selecting the gender of the baby. To that end, once the embryos free of genetic traits are identified, the ones that are of a preferred gender (if the parents choose so) are eventually used for the implantation.
This tactic is acknowledged as one of the most accurate ways of choosing a baby’s gender.
The Cost of IVF Gender Selection
However, it’s worth noting that IVF gender selection comes at a cost. Typically, the greater majority of clinics charge a sum of money ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars for PGD. In addition, there are clinics that choose to charge a lump sum, while others determine their price per embryo. To that end, the price may reach up to $20,000.
Note that this cost will be added to the initial expense of the IVF procedure, whose average cost is of $12,000 -15,000.
Considering the original investment of the IVF procedure, the added sum might not seem too much for most couples, especially since the additional screening further increases the odds of a successful pregnancy.
Women who had experienced a miscarriage in the past might feel reassured knowing that the embryos implanted are healthy. In addition, with age, the risk of genetically abnormal embryos is higher. Women who are in their mid-30s are at a higher risk in this respect.
On a different note, parents that carry genetic diseases might also consider PGD to ensure that their condition isn’t passed on to their children. This is the case for the BRCA gene. Considering that this technology is widely available at most state-of-the-art IVF clinics, many patients go down this path. However, some may not use this procedure due to financial reasons. Right now, most insurance companies don’t cover the high costs associated with IVF. This can make it difficult for parents to find the financial support needed to undergo the procedure.
Who Is Eligible for Gender Selection?
Let’s move on to another trivial question on the topic – the eligibility criteria of the IVF gender selection procedure. Since PGS is part of the IVF process, only couples that choose the IVF procedure can decide the sex of their baby.
Considering the high costs associated with IVF alone, and the emotional trouble and stress that go into the process, it isn’t recommendable to undergo the procedure due to this alone. IVF should be used for couples struggling with infertility issues. Hence, couples that don’t need to pursue IVF to conceive aren’t eligible for gender selection.
Some clinics may recommend their patients IVF gender selection if they have a child of a gender and they would like to balance their family make-up. Some families might also have a background of disorders affecting only a specific gender, which may be another motivation for gender selection.
Moreover, some couples might not have too many embryos at their disposal to use during the IVF. In this situation, gender selection might not be possible, as this will further reduce the number of available healthy embryos to use during the implantation.
The Success Rate of Gender Selection
As pointed out before, this approach has a high rate of success – ranging from 97 percent to 99 percent. At the same time, the sex of the baby you want doesn’t diminish or increase the chance of success.
Gender Selection – A Source of Controversies
Although many people might be thrilled at the idea of choosing the sex of their baby, there are some ethical concerns that are worth noting. The most evident of them is the fact that this might lead to the creation of designer babies. Concurrently, some people argue that it is unethical to destroy a healthy embryo simply because it isn’t the desired gender.
We could also discuss the potential societal implications of gender selection – particularly if this practice were to become widely used. In other words, this might eventually lead to a gender imbalance in the population, which would have catastrophic consequences. This could further strengthen the existing gender stereotypes regarding the non-dominant gender – not to mention that the reproductive cycle of a generation is bound to suffer.
Due to these moral and ethical considerations, it is easy to understand why couples that don’t have fertility issues cannot choose gender selection.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
Now, let’s have a closer look at the pros and cons associated with in vitro fertilization gender selection.
- You and your partner can make this decision together.
- You can avoid potential genetic mutations, if that’s the case in your family. Thus, you can increase the chances of having a healthy baby.
- Family balancing enables you to customize the gender makeup of your family.
- When you know the sex of the baby, this gives you more time to get ready for welcoming the new member to the family.
- It controls the size of your family, avoiding any additional attempts for having other children just to try for the other sex.
- Without considering the high costs of the in vitro fertilization procedure, gender selection comes at a high expense, making it inaccessible to some couples.
- In spite of the high accuracy index, there is still no absolute guarantee that PGS will be 100 percent efficient in helping you conceive a baby of the desired sex.
- This eliminates the element of surprise when finding out the sex of the baby.
Common Reasons Why Couples Choose
Choosing to undergo an IVF gender selection might not be an easy choice for most parents. Some reasons are more serious than others. So, let’s see the most commonly met ones.
- Medical Implications
This is, without a doubt, the first motivation. In spite of the fact that gender selection has somehow received a poor reputation, as it is a process of designing babies, it isn’t always the case. There are individual scenarios when choosing the gender of a child can lower the incidence of potential conditions that are prevalent in a family.
There are cases in which a partner might carry a dangerous genetic disposition. Therefore, choosing the gender of the child will notably diminish the incidence of passing down that genetic issue.
At the same time, the risks of having children with muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, and fragile x syndrome might also be diminished with IVF gender selection. There may be sex-linked genetic disorders, which usually are passed down via the maternal genes. These tend to be more prevalent in male babies, as it is the mothers that provide the chromosome X.
Thus, if the female in a couple carries such a condition, the couple might decide to have a girl in order to diminish the likelihood of having a baby boy with a serious condition.
- Personal Reasons
This has to do with the term family balancing. This is used when it comes to families that want to even out the numbers of males and females in a family. Concurrently, this is a common reason why most couples choose IVF gender selection.
Couples that have multiple children of the same sex might consider it. In addition, couples that have an only child might choose to have another child of the other gender, to even things out.
- Social Reasons
When it comes to social reasons, they are all in the category of controversial motives for gender selection during IVF. Some families might choose to have a baby boy in order for him to carry the family name. Others might prefer a specific ratio of sons and daughters.
Other couples might choose to have a boy so that he wouldn’t have to deal with sexism or other disadvantages that some women experience nowadays.
The Bottom Line
If you’re considering going down the path of IVF gender selection, you should be careful when you choose the fertility clinic. As a rule of thumb, you should do some preliminary research regarding the clinic’s preimplantation genetic screening. The team of specialists working at PGS should be well-versed and proficient in order to ensure a high rate of success for the gender selection process.
The good news is that, at the moment, PGS has become a standard service at most fertility clinics. This means that it is not so rare anymore. Concurrently, it is ideal for the clinic to have a history in the domain. Still, bear in mind that this technology has only been around for a decade – so, you should know what to expect in this respect as well.
All in all, in vitro fertilization gender selection is, by all means, the most accurate and efficient type of gender selection. There are other ways in which couples can maximize their odds of having a baby of a specific gender – such as the Shettles Method and other laboratory means, but they aren’t as efficient as this one.