What is Gender Selection?
Gender selection, or sex selection, is a fertility procedure that is used by couples who want to choose the gender of a baby prior to conception. While the desire to choose a baby boy or a baby girl has probably been present throughout human history, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available. With improvements in gender selection technology, the demand for gender selection has been growing steadily.
Two medical advances have been the driving forces behind the increasing demand for sex selection: 1) improvements in understanding of genetic diseases and 2) improvements in the ability to genetically assess and test embryos before transfer into the uterus (called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD).
Gender Selection for Medical Reasons
When gender selection is used to prevent a genetic disease, the process is referred to as “medical gender selection”. In sex-linked diseases, genetic diseases are inherited via the mother’s genes, and only the male offspring is affected. Examples of diseases this type of genetic disorder causes incudes muscular dystrophy and haemophilia, among many others. Parents who are carriers of these genetic diseases may want to reduce the risk of having affected children by having female babies only.
In other cases, certain conditions are more severely expressed in one gender, for example Fragile X syndrome, autism, etc. versus the other gender. Therefore, parents who are carriers of one of these genetic diseases can choose to have babies of the gender associated with a less severe form of the disease.
Medical reasons for gender selection can also be psychological: a single female may feel better equipped to have a daughter than a son or parents who have lost a child have a strong desire for a child of the same gender.
Elective Gender Selection
Sometimes gender selection can be “non-medical” also called “elective.” In these cases, a child of a specific gender is desired without any obvious medical indications. The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing” which occurs when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.
The steps and procedures for gender selection are as follows:
The female undergoes a traditional IVF/ICSI procedure. During this procedure, several eggs are extracted from the female by our gynaecologists and sperm is supplied by the male partner. The partner’s sperm is used to fertilize the female’s eggs in our laboratory and after 3 days, several embryos will have developed. Our embryologists examine the genetic makeup of the embryos, screening for both genetic diseases and the desired gender. A healthy embryo of the gender that the couple desires is then implanted in the female’s uterus and gestation and birth takes places as per normal. Any additional healthy embryos may be frozen and stored for future use.