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What is Gender Selection?

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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Gender selection is the attempt to select or influence the sex of your baby through scientific or non-scientific means. For millennia, cultures and societies have placed vast importance on the gender of their children, depending on how male or female dominated the society is. As a result, there are not only advances in medical science to assist in this endeavor, but also countless old wives’ tales which claim to have the solution to gender selection.

Since the identification of genetic diseases, parents who are carriers of X-chromosome linked or associated diseases such as hemophilia or Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy have used gender selection to sort out sperm which may result in a boy born with the disease. Fertility clinics have come up with the euphemism “Family Balancing” to describe gender selection used purely to choose the sex of the baby, not to avoid disease.

Generations of mothers have relied on the ancient Chinese Birth Chart, which claims to predict the gender of a child based on the mother’s age and month of conception. Others believe that red meat, salty snacks and soda for dad will result in a boy, and lots of fish, veggies and chocolate will result in a girl. Some folk wisdom claims that different positions during intercourse, time of day, the lunar calendar and the temperature of the testicles all contribute to the gender of the baby.

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While some of these may actually work, or may just be coincidences, there is a 50-50 chance to conceive either gender with each pregnancy. Today, more people are turning to science to guarantee gender. There are several methods, some more proven than others, to guarantee gender selection.

Preimplantaion Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a type of prenatal diagnosis in which non-implanted embryos are tested for gender. Once the desired gender is identified, the approved embryo is returned for implantation. This process uses In-vitro fertilization (IVF), which uses drugs to stimulate ovulation. Eggs are harvested from the mother, and then fertilized with the father’s sperm. Viable embryos are implanted into the mother’s uterus in the hopes that the pregnancy is viable.

“Leftover” embryos are frozen or donated for future use, although no one can guarantee that they will not be destroyed. Since PGD has been practiced since 1989, it has a fairly long history of success. PGD is 100% accurate due to the testing at the genetic level. PGD is invasive, and since it uses IVF, there is a higher chance of multiples. It is also very expensive at nearly 20,000 US dollars (USD).

Microsort, or “sperm-sorting,” is another form of gender selection. This process operates on the belief that girl-producing sperm are bigger than boy-producing sperm. Sperm is colored using a fluorescent dye, and then lit up. Because girl-producing sperm are larger, they absorb more dye, making them glow brighter. The sperm is separated, and then artificially inseminated into the mother in the hopes that an egg will be fertilized. While this tends to be used with artificial insemination (AI), it can also be used with IVF.

Microsort is less invasive than PGD, and cheaper at 5,000 to 16,000 USD. The success rate is 90% for girls and 74% for boys. Unfortunately, it is still in clinical trials and not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This process carries a lower risk of multiples, and extra embryos are not created.

The Ericsson method of gender selection claims to separate sperm based on the assumption that boy-producing sperm swim faster than girl-producing sperm. This process, which has been in use since the 1970s, separates the sperm by pouring a sample on a gluey layer of fluid in a test tube. In theory, the boy sperm swim down first, and the desired gender is collected. Using AI, the sperm is inseminated. The Ericsson method is non-invasive and inexpensive at approximately 600 USD. The success rates are 75-80% for boys, 73-75% for girls.

Other methods, including the Shettles and Whelan methods, are based on the belief that at different times during a woman’s ovulation, the environment is more hospitable to certain gender-producing sperm. Intercourse is timed in conjunction with these changes. Sex-selection kits work in much the same way, predicting which times of a woman’s cycle are best for certain genders.

While many people have no problem meddling with nature, others have raised serious ethical and religious objections to this subject. Many claim that our obsession with gender has led to female infanticide all over the world. Several countries have outlawed or restricted gender selection. At this time, the U.S. allows gender selection for both genetic and preferential reasons, while other countries only allow it to avoid genetic disease.

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anon251368
Post 3

What is the trend of the use of gender selection in the world?

Like for the past years up to now, what is the number of boys over the girls?

amypollick
Post 2

@Anon74996: This is what is known as an old wives' tale. Some people believe it, but it isn't true. Sperm cells are produced in the testicles, but each testicle produces both X and Y sperm cells. So you having two daughters is just a coincidence, or a blessing -- depending on how you look at it.

anon74996
Post 1

In my childhood, a testectomy on my right testicle was performed due to an accident which caused infection.

I have two daughters and wish to have a son. Is this possible?

I heard that right testicle contributes to having a boy and left one a girl child.

Please enlighten me on this subject. Thank you.

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