Can IVF Treatment Be Used in Family Balancing?

Parents and their children are looking at camera.

Family balancing in its broadest sense is a family that has equal numbers of males and females in it. However, in reality, when it comes to family balancing in practical terms, it is because there is a significant imbalance in the number of males or females and the parents would like to determine the sex of their next baby before it is conceived. It is something that many families feel quietly strongly about and have a desire to make their family “complete” with the addition of a son or daughter.

How can you achieve family balancing?

Family balancing can be achieved at a fertility clinic using in vitro fertilisation (IVF). During the process, the eggs will be harvested from the female while sperm will be taken from the male partner. The sperm is used to fertilise the eggs to create embryos which will be tested initially to ensure that they are genetically healthy and then to determine their sex.

Once the sex is known, the parents can decide which embryos (all male or all female) should be transferred back to the female’s uterus. As a result, the gender of the embryos is known before the full pregnancy process begins in the womb. The technology that is used to examine for genetic defects and to establish the sex of the embryo is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). PGD runs in parallel with the IVF treatment.

What is IVF treatment?

The first element of IVF treatment involves the female being given medication to stimulate her ovaries into producing more mature eggs than she would in a regular menstrual cycle (usually one mature egg is formed). This stage of the process takes approximately two weeks. The woman will be taking medication that encourages growth in the follicles along with additional medication which controls the release of the eggs (ovulation).

IVF is a form of treatment that is frequently undertaken by couples who are having difficulties conceiving a baby. However, when it is used for family balancing purposes, PGD testing is used in addition for establishing the gender of the embryos before they are returned to the uterus as would be the case in standard IVF treatment.

What is PGD?

PGD is a test that is performed on the blastocyst embryo approximately five or six days after the eggs have been retrieved. The test takes place in the laboratory, and a small sample of cells are taken from which doctors will be able to obtain chromosomal information. The information will tell us the sex of the embryo along with if it has any chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome. PGD is approximately 98% accurate.

Can I alter the sex of the embryos with PGD?

It is impossible to change the gender of the embryos. The PGD test determines the gender of the fertilised eggs and does not influence the sex of the embryos. Statistically, the split is of embryos will be 50/50 male and female. Chromosome testing is also carried out as a standard procedure to vastly increase the chances that no returned embryos are chromosomally abnormal. It almost eliminates the chances of the female going through the entire IVF process and not getting the desired gender or having a child that has genetic abnormalities.

What happens after PGD testing?

Assuming that there are some healthy embryos of the desired gender after testing, one, two or perhaps, even more, will be transferred back to lady’s uterus to try and begin the regular pregnancy process. The number of embryos that are transferred will be a decision made as a couple in association with your doctor. It should be stressed that if more than one embryo is transplanted, it increases your chances of multiple births.

The remaining embryos that are not used can be frozen, discarded or used for medical use in the laboratory. They cannot be used for commercial purposes under Thai law.

Are the PGD tests perform at the First Fertility clinic?

All of the tests take place in our state-of-the-art laboratory, and we are widely recognised as being the leading fertility clinic in Asia. The fact that all procedures are conducted onsite reduces the chances of eggs, sperm or embryos being damaged in transit. Our team are highly skilled and have undergone years of training which is one of the main reasons why we have such high success rates.

Naturally, we also have the facilities to complete the full IVF treatment at our clinic as well as having the latest facilities and equipment which can be used for egg freezing – should you so desire. Confidentiality is essential to our work, and we will only discuss the results of the PGD test with you directly, no third-parties without your prior consent.

You can find more information about PGD testing here.

What are the chances of becoming pregnant during the family balancing cycle?

Several factors need to be taken into consideration regarding your chances of becoming pregnant from one particular IVF/PGD cycle. Your age, general health and reproductive history will all play a part. During the period from January to October 2019, our overall success rate with IVF treatment was 72.6%. However, we stress to all couples, even if you have no history of infertility, there are no guarantees that the procedure will be a success. Your doctor will discuss your chances of success with you at a follow-up consultation.

How long does the process take?

It is impossible to give a definitive answer as to how long the IVF/PGD cycle will take until the results of PGD test are known, and your doctor has discussed the IVF protocol that will be tailored to your personal circumstances. As an approximate guide, couples may need three months from the initial consultation until the completion of the first complete IVF/PGD cycle.

In the early stages of the IVF treatment, the female will be required to attend several appointments over a period of 10-14 days. The male usually only requires one appointment. We strongly recommend discussing this with your employer before commencing treatment.