Is It Possible To Choose Your Baby’s Gender?

Is It Possible To Choose Your Baby’s Gender?

Yes it is thanks to advances in fertility treatment that enable doctors to identity male and female embryos.Many couples who want to start a family have a gender preference which is why gender selection has become increasing popular over the past few years. Many cultures consider it important to conceive a boy first while couples who already have two or more children of the same sex might yearn for one of the opposite gender.

Gender selection is also an option for couples who want to avoid passing gender-linked genetic diseases to their children.Gender selection choices are not all equally successful, available or affordable. The gender selection methods that are the most effective are unfortunately sometimes also the most expensive.

These methods also often require you having to endure invasive fertility treatments and take medication with possible side effects.

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Remember that Mother Nature has tipped the odds in favor of boys with only 100 girls being born for every 105 boys.

Continue reading for more information pertaining to gender selection methods and how they can help you conceive the baby of your choice.

Can Anyone Choose Their Baby’s Gender?

John Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen, caused an outrage when she announced that they selected the gender of their baby during in vitro fertilization (IVF). While some were upset by the ethical connotations of the revelation others were merely surprised that the custom of gender selection exists at all.

The technology such as that used by Legend and Teigen is only available to those undertaking expensive and intricate IVF procedures. By 2012 as many as 60 000 babies were conceived via IVF in the USA accounting for just 1.5% of all births that year.

If you do not have pre-existing fertility problems you will not be eligible for IVF simply for the purpose of gender selection. There are however other avenues apart from IVF to explore should you have your heart set on a baby of a certain gender.

It Is All About The Sperm

In order to understand the processes involved with gender selection one can familiarize oneself with the differences between male and female sperm.

Characteristics of Male Sperm

  • Identified as looking like a ‘Y’
  • Experience short power bursts before they lose momentum and die
  • Are not as strong as female sperm
  • Move towards the egg at a high speed
  • Cannot fertilize the egg longer than 24 hours after leaving the man’s body

Characteristics of Female Sperm

  • Identified as looking like a ‘X’
  • Move slower than the male sperm but retain their energy for longer
  • Are stronger and live longer than male sperm
  • Can fertilize the egg up to 5 days after leaving the man’s body

differences between male and female sperm

How Does Gender Selection Via Ivf Work?

During IVF the fertilization occurs outside the body. The procedure begins with fertility drugs which stimulates the ovaries to produce several eggs for fertilization as opposed to the singular egg that is generally freed each month.Once the eggs are ready to be recovered you will receive an anesthetic and an ultrasound probe will then be introduced into the vagina to observe your follicles and ovaries. The doctor will then proceed to insert a reedy needle through wall of the vagina to harvest the eggs.

The eggs are then fertilized with the sperm and become embryos.Once embryos are formed in vitro, sometimes they go through screening in order to choose the most viable ones to implant into the mother’s womb.  The screening usually takes place in response to medical indications such as advanced maternal age and previous miscarriages.

With a regular cycle of IVF approximately 50% of the implanted embryos will end in a healthy pregnancy with the odds increasing to 70% using a screened embryo.

Two types of screening exist:

PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis)

PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis) is when single cells are screened from embryos which makes it easier to determine defects, diseases and chromosomal disorders. This testing occurs prior to the embryo being inserted into the uterus.

PGD affords couples the opportunity to choose embryos based on their chromosomal and genetic status.The primary goal of PGD is to identify abnormal embryos so that they will not be transferred resulting in healthy babies. The technology can also be used to determine the gender of the embryo before it is implanted in the uterus. Gender selection is suggested to couples wanting to have a baby of a specific sex.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) is used for people with repeated miscarriage or infertility. PGS applies PGD technology to improve their chances of conceiving successfully. The primary goal of PGS is to identify abnormal embryos but it can also reveal the gender of each embryo.

If the screening indicates that both genders are represented by the healthy embryos about 50% of patients request to choose the gender of the implant.

Pros:

  • If you do successfully conceive, both PGD and PGS ensure with almost 100 % certainty that you’ll have a baby of the desired gender
  • The remaining embryos of both sexes can be frozen following a PGD or PGS cycle. These can be utilized in the future should you miscarry or decide to have more children. Frozen embryos carry a success rate parallel to that of fresh transfers, but the procedure is less invasive and considerably more cost effective.

Cons:

  • It is not cheap! One round of IVF with genetic testing can lead to bills of $20,000 and more.
  • Because the transfer process is invasive it could prove to be very painful.
  • Fertility drugs sometimes carry considerable side effects such as bloating, weight gain, water retention and blurred vision.
  • The chance of multiple births increases with any IVF pregnancy. According to statistics released by the USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 46% of babies conceived through IVF were twins or other multiples such as triplets. The likelihood of multiple births may be significantly lower with regards to PGD and PGS because in most cases only a single embryo is implanted.
  • Deciding what to do with the unused embryos may prove to be a harrowing task. You can opt for freezing, discarding or donating for research or adoption.

Availability

Some clinics only offer preimplantation genetic testing for medical reasons and not gender selection, while others allow you to use PGS to pick the baby’s gender even if there is no medical reason for your decision.  Call fertility clinics to find out their policies pertaining to gender selection.

Psychological reasons for gender selection are also considered medical. An example of this is a couple who lost a child and wants another child of the same gender.

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Why Is Gender Selection Seen As Controversial?

A great number of people see non-medical gender selection as discrimination against a specific sex. To avoid this discrimination, some clinics limit the use of non-medical IVF to couples who already have at least one child.  In a study conducted by John Hopkins it was found that up to 41% of US based clinics took this approach.In the long run extensive use of IVF gender selection can throw off the natural balance between males and females in society, something which is heavily frowned upon world-wide.  An even broader concern over IVF gender selection is that it may pave the way for parents to select embryos based on other traits.

The Following Anti-Gender Selection Arguments Exist:

  • “Designer babies.” Are being formed by making use of gender selection.
  • Gender selection technology is a way of “playing God” as opposed to not leaving it to take the natural course as intended.
  • Gender selection is a form of gender discrimination as couples who undergo IVF-PGD are basically “rejecting” embryos of the opposite sex.
  • Parents who want to use this technology will have unusually high hopes for certain stereotypical aspects of a particular gender that may not be met. (e.g., a girl might prefer sport over playing with dolls and wearing pretty; a boy may not like playing contact sports and show interest in hairdressing or fashion design)

What Are The Other Options?

Natural Gender Selection Techniques

There are a number of natural techniques that can be used to help a couple conceive a child of the sex they want. These include:

Timing Methods

The Shettles Method revolves around calculating the time of the women’s ovulation and then trying to conceive either before or during ovulation depending on whether they want to conceive a boy or girl. To conceive a boy a couple should engage in intercourse on the day of ovulation.

If they wish to conceive a girl they should have sex 2 or 3 days before ovulation. Another method, the Whelan Method, promotes the exact opposite of the Shettles Method. It suggests sex 2 to 3 days prior to ovulation for a girl and 4 -6 days for a boy,

Pros:

  • No invasive medical procedures or medication required
  • Low in cost
  • Safe

Cons:

  • You have to be able to pinpoint ovulation which could prove to be difficult in some cases.
  • There’s no guarantee of success.

The Ericsson Method 

The Ericsson Method is based on the fact that the X chromosome is bigger than the Y chromosome.  Semen is placed on top of increasingly thicker layer of protein albumin in a test tube.It is then briskly spun in a centrifugal machine to separate the particles in the liquid to separate into layers based on density.

The denser X-sperm (female) are believed to separate from the lighter Y-sperm (male). This allows for an all X or all Y sperm sample to be created.

The woman is then inseminated with the chosen sperm sample. The doctor who created this method in the 1970’s claimed to have an overall success rate of 73 to 85% but recent studies have shown that the method does not change the 50:50 chance of conceiving either a boy or girl. 

Pros:

  • It is more affordable compared to other, more high-tech options
  • It is a non-invasive procedure
  • It is considered to be relatively safe

Cons:

  • There are no guarantees of success.
  • It is not effective as IVF and it may take multiple cycles to achieve a pregnancy.

Availability

This technique is available at a many fertility clinics world-wide.

Microsort

Microsort is a technique that separates male and female sperm.  The sorted sperm of choice is then inserted into the uterus during an intrauterine insemination (IUI).During the Microsort process the sperm absorbs a dye which attaches to the genetic material inside of it. The X chromosome is larger than the Y chromosome and will therefor absorb more dye, causing it to display great fluorescence when exposed to a laser light.

The variation in brightness is detected by the flow cytometer and the sperm are separated. Microsort boasts of a success rate of up to 90% in conceiving a girl and 75% in conceiving a boy.The difference in brightness is picked up by the flow cytometer (machine used in the process) and the sperm are sorted. Success rates using Microsort technology are close to 90 percent in conceiving a female, and close to 75 percent in conceiving a male.

As promising as the Microsort method sounds it is important to know that s of 2012 Microsort is no longer available in the USA as it is still awaiting FDA approval.There are also a host of folk wisdoms such as changing your diet and having sex in certain positions that can be employed. The viability of these methods remains primarily unsubstantiated but there is absolutely no harm in trying.

Reasons for Gender Selection

A couple may be considering gender selection for a number of reasons:

Medical Reasons

There are a number of gender-linked diseases that can be avoided through gender selection.  Autism and Duchenne muscular dystrophy are two such diseases that affect males more severely than females.

Medical reasons for gender selection are usually tied to conditions more common in boys where families try to avoid conceiving males for that reason.When a couple decides on gender selection based on medical reasons they can opt for one of the following:

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) screens the embryos for a particular severe genetic mutation that is linked to the disease in question.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) is used when a couple is, for example, not interested in conceiving another boy even if the boy is not carrying the disease in question.  They simple want a little girl. PGS is a much simpler and cheaper option than performing a single gene diagnosis.

Non- Medical Reasons

When a family wants to choose the gender of their baby for non-medical reason it is also known as elective gender selection. The most common non-medical reason for gender selection is called family balancing.

Family balancing occurs when a family has one or more children of the same sex and wants to have a child of the opposite gender.The ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) declared gender selection as ethical in principle in 2001. Policies pertaining to gender selection vary from clinic to clinic and country to country. It is important to research your options thoroughly before making a decision.

Regardless of the lack of scientific veracity there are plenty of old wives’ tales doing the rounds. Some might claim that consuming caffeine before intercourse will stimulate sperm production while another focuses on how different sex positions can bring about the conception of either boys or girls.Although harmless to try it is important to remember that that accuracy of these methods remains unproven.

Making the decision to opt for gender selection is not always an easy one and it is extremely important that anyone considering this procedure does through research on the various options available which in turn will enable them to make educated decisions.

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