Many people tend to have certain hopes when it comes to family composition. They visualize having a certain number of children and their genders. However, the children you naturally conceive are often the luck of the draw. It is not uncommon for many families to find themselves with children of just one gender. This is often when a desire to achieve family balancing arises.
Family balancing refers to the use of medical technology to control the gender outcomes of pregnancies. Using Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) are screened to determine their gender. Selection is made from those that match the gender desired by the parents, and the embryo(s) are transferred into the woman’s uterus for implantation to occur hopefully. This process is all about scientifically guaranteeing that the parents get whatever gender of the child they want.
So what are the pros and cons of pursuing this line of treatments?
1. Ideal Family Composition
It is the ambition of many families to have a particular mix of genders amongst their children. It is impossible to determine what gender outcomes with natural conception. Family balancing allows the parents to achieve the perfect family composition they desire.
In some cultures, having children of a specific gender, often as firstborns, is more desirable. PGD can allow them to realize this desire without putting the mother through multiple births.
Where the children being naturally conceived are of one gender, it is not uncommon to see couples keep trying to achieve balance. This often leads to large families that can be a financial strain to support. Undergoing family balancing early on will allow the parents to complete the family composition they want without going overboard quickly. They can plan for and better afford their fewer children’s future needs. This will mean better access to suitable housing, food, education, and other expenses.
3. Genetic Screening
Certain debilitating genetic conditions can be passed down the generations. Not only can they compromise the quality of life of sufferers, but they can also become a significant financial burden for the family. Some conditions will never allow a sufferer to lead a productive life, meaning they cannot be expected to become independent. Family balancing provides the opportunity to have embryos screened for genetic disorders. Some of which can be gender-specific, like Turner syndrome for females and Alport syndrome in males.
If such genetic conditions afflict a couple, they can use PGD to identify embryos of the opposite gender for implantation. This will eliminate the risk of having a child that will suffer such genetic disorders, providing them with a better quality of life and a reduced risk of the associated medical problems. While this may not encourage actual gender balance, it will allow the family to avoid suffering the stress of having a child with health complications that may be severe and lifelong.
4. Easing Grief
Many parents will pursue family balancing after they have lost a child. They feel that by having another child of the same gender, they can be consoled and move on. This does not mean the child is an exact replacement, just that they can help lessen the grief the family is suffering and offer them another chance at raising them as they would have their lost sibling.
When parents can conceive the child they always envisioned, it may make it easier for them to love and care for the child. Having a child of the opposite gender may breed resentment or other negative feelings, as it is not what the parents wanted. More so if they have had earlier children and all or most turned out to be of one gender. Being able to welcome addition that corrects this imbalance will often stir positive emotions that make for a happier and healthier home for the baby and the rest of the family.
1. Moral and Ethical Considerations
In certain cultures and religions, family balancing can be controversial as it is considered unnatural. Many communities believe that issues of conception and birth should be left to fate or God. Interfering by medical means to guarantee the delivery of certain genders can be viewed as immoral, even with positive outcomes. It can result in such families being ridiculed or ostracised. Hence the reason many parents that go this route will travel abroad for treatment, allowing them to keep the procedures a secret.
Even in societies with a preference for offspring of a particular sex, later problems like gender imbalance have made it harder for young adults to find partners. This is easily seen in countries like India and China, where males outnumber females due to female infanticide. This has prompted more recent legislation in some countries to prevent gender screening.
While family balancing can help families achieve the family composition they want with fewer children and therefore result in lower long-term costs of raising a family, the price tag of the treatments is often relatively high. IVF and PGD can cost thousands of dollars, making them treatments out of reach for most people. While traveling abroad can help make some savings, it remains a costly option for many.
Another associated downside is that there is no guarantee of implantation or successful delivery. It is not uncommon for implantation to fail even when multiple embryos have been transferred into the woman’s uterus, or a miscarriage or stillbirth occurs later. While efforts can help boost the chances of a positive pregnancy result, reproductive matters can sometimes be unpredictable.
While it is hoped that the family will be delighted by their new addition, there are sometimes regrets that crop up for having undergone such treatment. Whether it is feeling remorse for trying to replace a lost child or later financial strains that call into question the wisdom of having spent so much money, it is possible for a couple to no longer be as happy with the outcome. This regret can lead to unhappy households, divorce, and even abandonment. Those that support this view suggest that sticking to natural conception will reduce the risk of such regrets.