When it comes to having a baby, many couples will want to have control over the gender of the child to be born. Family balancing allows such couples to ensure the desired gender through the processes of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). These procedures provide a scientific means by which to ensure the gender of the embryo that will be transferred into the uterus of the woman, in hopes that she becomes pregnant.
It is difficult to influence the gender outcome of a child through natural means. It is the sperm that determines the sex of the baby. If it carries the X chromosome the child will be female, and if it carries the Y chromosome it will be a male. Statistically, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the natural sex ratio to be at 105 males per 100 female births. This means you have about equal chances of having a boy as you would a girl through natural means. These odds are not good enough when you have reasons to want a specific gender.
Some factors that can influence gender include the genetics of the father. Some men inherit a tendency to have more sons or daughters from their lineage. This means they may produce more sperm that carry X or Y chromosomes and therefore are more likely to have children of a specific gender.
Another factor could be the point at which a woman is in her menstrual cycle. Sperm carrying Y chromosome tend to be fast but not long-lasting. Those carrying the X chromosome tend to be slower but more resilient. If the woman is yet to reach ovulation, sperm carrying the Y chromosome are more likely to die off before they can fertilize the egg that has been released. This also raises the issue of acidic and alkaline conditions of the cervix and uterus that are also influenced by ovulation.
Though research has shown such factors can influence the gender of the baby, they are difficult to control and there remains the possibility you will still bear a child of the opposite gender. Family balancing offers a more precise means of ensuring a woman gets pregnant with a baby that is of the desired gender.
How Family Balancing Works
The process begins the same as with normal IVF treatments. Consultations are done with the doctor to discuss any challenges with fertility, the treatment options available, and their associated benefits and risks. A thorough medical evaluation of both parents is also undertaken to establish their health condition.
If the couple qualifies for IVF, treatment then begins with the woman being administered hormone injections. This helps to stimulate and regulate the growth of eggs from the ovaries. Once the eggs reach maturity, an egg retrieval procedure is undertaken. It involves using an ultrasound to guide a hollow needle that will reach each follicle and aspirate or suck out the eggs.
The eggs are then fertilised with the sperm of the father in the laboratory. The fertilized eggs are allowed to grow until they reach the pre-embryonic stage. From here a few cells are extracted from each pre-embryo for genetic testing or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This testing will determine if the pre-embryos are either male or female. It is also used to check on chromosomal abnormalities that may lead to birth defects or genetic disorders.
Once healthy pre-embryos of the desired gender have been identified, they can then be transferred into the uterus of the woman in hopes that implantation and pregnancy will occur. The doctor will likely select just one or two pre-embryos for this stage. The rest can be frozen and stored in case another round of IVF is required. They may also be donated for medical research or to an infertile couple unable to produce healthy pre-embryos.
Family balancing ensures that only pre-embryos of the desired gender are chosen for implantation, guaranteeing the final outcome of the pregnancy. Going through this entire process and expense can however raise the question, why is family balancing important?
Why Family Balancing Matters
For many couples, the best outcome when having children is when both genders are represented. When you already have a child of one gender or have several children that are predominantly of a single gender, the desire to have the opposite gender may be strong. Family balancing allows couples to ensure they have representation of both genders in their family composition.
In some cases, there may be inherited genetic disorders to be concerned about. Many such disorders will have serious health implications for a specific gender. In such instances, the couple may want to avoid having a child that will suffer serious health problems by opting to conceive just children of the opposite gender. Family balancing helps ensure they can better control such outcomes.
A couple may also have deeply personal reasons for wanting to choose the gender of their baby. It could be they feel better psychologically prepared to raise a child of a specific gender or want to have another of the same gender as one that they lost. It could also be a cultural concern that makes it vital to have a child of a specific gender to protect family interests.
As genetic testing is part of family balancing, it is also beneficial to those that are more likely to suffer chromosomal conditions. Women that conceive after the age of 37 years and those that have suffered miscarriages or children born with chromosomal conditions are at a higher risk. Genetic testing will allow them to identify the healthiest pre-embryos they can proceed with to better ensure a healthy baby. This testing can also help in identifying a pre-embryo that is a genetic match for an existing child who may need treatment such as a bone marrow transplant.
There are many reasons to want to pursue family balancing, but ultimately the desire is to ensure a healthy baby is born. Take time to consider why you may need to consider this treatment and consult with your doctor on how best to go about it.