My Fox Houston recently had a story about parents wanting to choose what gender they want their future child to be. Here is the link to the news article which contains a video.
How much would you be willing to pay to determine the gender of your baby? One Kentucky couple was so determined to have a baby girl that they paid $24,000 through a gender selection procedure. The 30 year old mother says baby Malia was worth every penny. So if you had a choice which would you choose: a boy or a girl? Research shows that most Americans would choose a boy. The gallup organization found that 40% of couples prefer a baby boy, 28% would choose a girl. The others either didn’t care or they weren’t sure.
In tonight’s Fox in Focus: the controversy over sex selection and why more parents would prefer to raise boys. We’re talking to reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Timothy Hickman and psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini. So Dr. Hickman, let’s start with you tonight. Many people think that they can do this whole boutique style of baby selection – choosing eye color, choosing the gender – but you say it’s not that simple.
It’s really isn’t. People think that you can do that but that is not the case. Actually this is a technology that comes with a price. So we really should not do this type of thing – to biopsy the embryos – because that could potentially lessen the ability for them to survive.
So there’s a lot of risk involved just to find out the gender in advance.
There absolutely is. In order to do this reliably, the only method we have is to actually pluck a cell from the embryo and that can lessen its viability. Sometimes that done for a disease process to try to avoid a problem but for just gender selection it’s really an inappropriate use of the technology.
So Mary Jo, I want to bring you in on this. Let’s talk about this preference that we tend to have for boys in this country and around the world and you say that the gender of the parent is a big factor in all of this.
That’s right. That gallup poll was a little misleading because when it said 40% of the couples wanted a boy that was basically inspired by the dads. The men that were having babies wanted boys much more than the women did. The women basically said they wanted a healthy baby or they had no preference. I think a lot of times dads feel like they can relate better to a boy than to a girl. They don’t really have any idea how to be a little girl’s dad and the truth is once a little girl is born, she has her dad wrapped around her finger within a couple of seconds.
Oh I know that, that is so true. But Dr. Hickman, let’s talk about the ethics of gender selection. You say despite the risks you still have people who show up to you saying, “Hey, I’d like a baby boy please.”
They certainly do and what we see is maybe about once a month I’ll have a couple come in and really expect that that is something we can do very easily. Then I go take the time to sit down and go through – well this is actually how it really happens and this is what we’d have to and this is really deemed ethically inappropriate by the American Society for Preventive Medicine for just gender selection alone, and then people say “Oh ok, that’s too much. I understand that’s pushing the envelope a bit much.” Now sometimes we find out this information when we’re checking for other disease states, for example if a woman miscarries continually and we think the reason she’s doing that is because of abnormal chromosomes. Then we’l biopsy the embryoes, find out which ones are healthy and as a product of that technique we find out the gender also. So that would be something where all things being equal at least we know which one it is.
Well Mary Jo I got to ask you, what does it say about us as society today that we want everything, we want to know everything in advancement? I happen to know the sex of my child. I didn’t know it, you know, before we conceived however, but that we don’t want to wait. What’s wrong with us or is there anything wrong with us?
Well I think everybody gets excited when they have a baby and they feel they can be better parent if they know in advance, they know how to prepare the room and things like this. And I also think that most people want a baby – especially for men since it grows inside a woman, guys are kind of on the outside – and I understand why they would think they would be better parents for a boy. But, in honesty I look at that as kind of a positive thing that guys do want to be involved in parenting, that they do want to be good parents. However I just want to caution men that usually after they have a girl they’re incredible , and they say later that they had no idea that they could treat a girl as gender likely as a boy. I mean they could go to baseball games and everything else. They just were a little bit unsure of themselves
Alright, Mary Jo Rapini, Dr. Timothy Hickman, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
According to fertilityauthority.com:
Gender selection may be used when parents want a child of a specific sex, a “balanced family”—a boy and a girl, for example, or in instances where sex-linked diseases such as hemophilia are a concern. More and more fertility clinics are offering gender selection with in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI); methods include preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and Microsort®.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) involves testing one cell of 3-day-old embryos that are created via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
What It Is. One cell from the embryo is removed to analyze its chromosomal makeup, which indicates whether the embryo is female or male. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus during the IVF cycle.
Who’s Offering It. Fertility clinics across the U.S. are offering PGD, and while it is most often offered for screening for genetic diseases, its use for gender selection is becoming more mainstream.
Success Rates. Gender selection with PGD is almost 100 percent accurate.
Microsort is a patented technology, currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), by which male and female sperm are sorted. Sorted sperm are then placed in the uterus during an intrauterine insemination (IUI).
What It Is. The sperm absorb a dye which attaches to the DNA or genetic material inside the sperm. The X (female) chromosome is larger than the Y chromosome, thus absorbing more dye and displaying greater fluorescence when exposed to laser light. The difference in brightness is picked up by the flow cytometer (machine used in the process) and the sperm are sorted.
Who’s Offering It. Currently, only two clinics in the U.S.—Huntington Reproductive Center in Calif., and Genetics and IVF in Fairfax, Va.—are authorized by the FDA to use Microsort as part of a national study.
Success Rates. Success rates using Microsort technology are close to 90 percent in conceiving a female, and close to 75 percent in conceiving a male.
IVF, in vitro fertilization, is not the only method of determining the sex of your baby before you even conceive. There is evidence that a woman’s diet can have an effect on the gender of her future children. As one blogger reports:
The vaginal environment, and the changes it undergoes during the normal menstrual cycle, is also very important to all-natural gender selection. The vaginal environment and cervical mucus can greatly influence the chances that either an “X” carrying sperm or “Y” carrying sperm will be successful in fertilizing the egg. Instilling within the vaginal vault specifically formulated douching compounds, which augment this selectivity, can enhance these factors. From the study done by Rajan S. Joshi, a Gynecologist and obstetrician of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, a modification of the four basic elements in our diet i.e. sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium two months before the planned conception, followed by a specific time period for intercourse in the target cycle results in around 97% success rate in achieving the pregnancy of the preferred sex. The method is totally safe, non-invasive, economical and safely done at home with once a month consultation or correspondence based guidance by the doctor. The method is devoid of any side effects.
According to the research by Jacques and Stolwoski, the diet of the woman has total and drastic effect on the sex of the child to be conceived. This was based on the study that the pellucid membrane which surrounds the ova has certain receptor sites on which the spermatozoa bind and may fertilize the ova. The ratio of potassium/calcium, magnesium has an effect on the molecular biology of the receptor sites. This effect is termed as Allosteric Modification, which causes specific changes in the membrane compound. These changes in the receptor sites effect the selective attraction towards X sperms or Y sperms, due to variation in the intensity of potentialities on the sperms of both kinds.
To simplify the matter, if a woman is given a high calcium, high magnesium, low sodium, low potassium diet for a period of 6 to 8 weeks prior to conception, her receptor sites on the ova shall attract only X sperms and repel the Y sperms, resulting in a conception of female child.
To reverse the matter, if a woman is given a high sodium, high potassium, low calcium, and low magnesium diet for 6 to 8 weeks prior to conception she will attract only the Y sperms and repel the X sperms, resulting into conceiving a male child. Here I would like to mention that though actually only the ratio of potassium to calcium and magnesium is important, the sodium contribution is important as it represents the natural physiological means of controlling potassium metabolism by acting on the suprarenal glands, a salt overcharge puts the glands at rest and a deficiency causes hyperactivity.
This diet can be supplemented by additional nutritional supplement when necessary. The patient has to be on the diet and supplement till she conceives. But the diet and the supplement take at least 6 to 8 weeks to act on the ovaries. So starting from the onset of the diet, contraception has to be used till the patient finishes her first two menses. After that she enters what is referred to as the target cycle; the cycle in which she is supposed to conceive. In the target cycle she is supposed to have intercourse on certain specific days depending upon her individual plan of action chart. As mentioned earlier the intercourse has to be after ovulation in case of male child selection, whereas it has to be 24 hours before if a female child is desired. The exact time has to be charted out which varies on case-to-case basis for all patients. It is mandatory that the patient should not stop the diet till she is confirmed to be pregnant by a blood or a urine test in a pathology laboratory or a reliable home pregnancy kit, which should not be done for at least 4 days after the date of the expected periods.
The Y carrying spermatozoa exhibit slower mobility than the X, thus any procedures that may aid in their survival and movement enhance the probability of the surviving in the female reproductive tract and fertilizing the ovum.
So what do you think? Do you think using medical technology such as IVF, PGD, or MicroSort for gender selection is ethical? This brings up the issue of abortion. Some people are against abortion no matter what the circumstance is. Others are comfortable only when the mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. Some accept abortion for any reason as long as it’s before a certain point in a woman’s pregnancy. Still others believe that a woman has a right to choose abortion at any time during her pregnancy up until child birth and for any reason. The idea of ending a pregnancy because the sex is “wrong” is abhorrent to most people though.
Also, do you or did you have any preference for a boy or a girl when you pregnant or were trying to conceive? How do you feel about 4 out of 10 couples wishing for a boy or that more men prefer having a son to having a daughter?