Gender selection is a fairly new option in the field of fertility treatment. Patients undergoing IVF can now choose whether to use a male or female embryo. Here are some frequently asked questions about this process.
What Technology is Used?
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is the only reliable method for selecting the gender of a child. Sperm sorting is sometimes used by couples in the hope of increasing the chances of conceiving a child of the desired sex. However, the effectiveness of this method is unproven lacking data from large, multicenter trials.
How Does PGD Work?
After an egg has been fertilized in an IVF dish, it is allowed to develop for 3 days. After this, a single cell is removed from the embryo. It is evaluated for Y chromosome (the male chromosome) markers. If these genetic markers are present, the embryo is male. If not, the embryo is female.
Is This Process Safe and Reliable?
The process of PGD does not prevent an embryo from developing normally. The results of the evaluation are available after about 2 days. This means the embryo is transferred to the mother’s womb on the 5th day instead of the 3rd day. This is still within the time frame for successful embryo transfer. This method of determining the sex of an embryo has been shown to be 99% accurate.
Why Might Patients Choose this Option?
Patients sometimes use gender selection if they already have children of one gender and wish to balance their family with a child of the opposite gender. Or, the family may have a history of genetic disorders that are passed down through the X chromosome. These recessive traits typically affect male children because they have only one X chromosome. Choosing to have a girl makes it unlikely that this disease will affect the child. Some patients simply prefer to have a child of a specific gender.
Are There Ethical Concerns about Gender Selection?
Some people feel that selection of non-essential characteristics like gender is not an appropriate use of medical technology. Others believe gender selection is an aspect of reproductive rights and parents should be allowed to make this decision. The use of this technology to prevent genetic disease or to provide family balancing is typically viewed as less controversial than other uses.