Even though globally male births slightly outweigh female births at a gender ratio of 105 to 100, the odds are about even when it comes to naturally conceiving a boy or girl. However, there are situations whereby parents will want to have a child of a specific gender. There are many reasons for this. There is only one way by which gender outcomes can be assured.
This is through gender selection which is a scientific process that ensures an embryo of a specific gender is transferred into a woman’s uterus for implantation to occur. It offers a 99-100% success rate for either gender. Before we dig into how this process works, let’s discuss the often personal and health-related reasons this procedure is sought after.
Why Parents Want Gender Selection
Some parents will want to undergo gender selection due to sex-linked inherited genetic disorders. This may mean that the combination of the parents’ reproductive material may increase the likelihood of a child of a certain gender being born with a genetic disorder. Opting to have a child of the other gender may mean avoiding this outcome and the possible lifelong health complications. This can include conditions such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), haemophilia A, and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome.
In some cultures, it may be considered more advantageous to ensure that the firstborn child is of the male gender. This is commonplace in more traditionally patriarchal societies. For other couples, it could be the desire to want to balance out gender representation when they have more than one child. This is referred to as family balancing. There may also be an emotional desire to want to replace a deceased child with another of the same gender.
Many parents that undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment do so because they have delayed childbearing to an advanced age. Waiting so long and knowing they may just have one chance at parenthood may also motivate them to want to control the outcome of the treatment by performing gender selection.
How Is Gender Selection Done?
Gender selection is typically carried out during the IVF process as part of the preimplantation genetic testing or diagnosis. IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology that allows for the creation of embryos in a lab setting before their transfer into the woman’s uterus. It is designed to help those having difficulty conceiving increase their chances of having a healthy baby. However, it is now also undertaken by couples that may not have fertility problems, but do want to guarantee the gender outcome of the pregnancy.
The process begins with physical exams, tests, and consultation with a fertility specialist. If IVF is agreed upon, then the first stage will involve the woman undergoing ovarian stimulation. This process allows for the menstrual cycle to be suppressed so that the follicles in the ovary are stimulated by hormonal medications to produce many eggs. These are later matured and retrieved while sperm is collected from the man.
The eggs and sperm are then mixed to create embryos. An embryologist then extracts some cells from the embryos for screening. This screening is to check for any chromosomal abnormalities, genetic disorders, and gender. This allows for the identification of the healthiest embryos and their gender. If gender selection is to be done, only embryos of the gender chosen will then be transferred for implantation to occur.
Is Gender Selection Legal
Gender selection is not legal in all countries. It is because, in some places, there has been an excessive number of sex-selective abortions carried out that have resulted in societal imbalances. For instance, in countries like India and China, there has been a strong preference for male children that resulted in many abortions of female babies. Consequently, this has now resulted in a skewed population where men outnumber women by about 70 million in the two countries.
Hence, gender selection is now illegal in such countries. Where the sex ratio is more balanced, such as in the US, gender selection may, however, still be permitted. Thus, many couples from countries where the procedure is illegal will travel abroad, where they may legally undergo the necessary procedures.
How Much Does It Cost?
Because gender selection is carried out as part of the IVF process, we will be looking at how much IVF treatment costs. The figure can vary greatly depending on such factors as the health condition of the mother, location, and the number of cycles gone through.
On average, basic IVF for a single cycle can cost over $20,000, without the cost of medications included. Some parents may be lucky enough to have good health insurance cover that can reduce their out-of-pocket expenses. Many countries do place restrictions based on the age of the mother and her relationship status. Several nations ban the procedure for those who are single mothers or lesbians.
At First Fertility, IVF treatments range from $12,000 -$15,000. Though the cost appears to be on the higher side, it is worth noting that the quality of healthcare can often be comparable to what you would get in the west. You also have to consider the cost of living given that it can take several weeks to undergo a cycle of treatment. With the cost of living and travel in many parts of Asia being much lower, the overall expense can often be lower than going elsewhere in the world.
For whatever reason, couples may want to undertake gender selection. It may however be illegal in their country hence the need to travel overseas to access this service. It is part of IVF treatment and will require the couple to go through often extensive and intensive procedures.
Note that IVF treatments do not always mean a pregnancy outcome so it is advisable to be mentally and financially prepared for the possibility you may have to repeat the process. Gender selection is however assured if you successfully undergo the IVF treatment. If you have a strong desire to control the outcome of your pregnancy, then this remains your best option in creating the family composition you want.