Parents today have much more control over many aspects of conception. There was once a time when people could only know the gender of their child at birth. Now, parents can choose what gender of the child will be conceived thanks to advancements in reproductive medicine.
Gender selection refers to choosing what gender of the child will be conceived. It is typically achieved through preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) during in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. Gender selection through IVF is considered the most accurate way of ensuring the gender outcome of a child. However, there may be other options you can pursue. Before we delve into this, let us look at why gender selection matters.
Why Gender Selection
The desire to conceive and birth a child of a specific gender may be prompted by various reasons. One of the most common reasons could be gender balancing. This is whereby a family that already has a child or children of one gender wants to conceive another child of the opposite gender so that both sexes are represented in the family composition.
Another reason could be to avoid passing on sex-linked genetic conditions. Suppose there is a hereditary condition that is only passed on through a specific gender. In that case, the family may want just to conceive children of the opposite gender that will not be afflicted.
In certain cultures, or personal preference, the parents may also want to have a first child of a specific gender. In cases where the parents intend only to have one child, they may also want to choose its gender. Parents that have lost a child of a specific gender may also want to conceive another child of the same gender.
There are varied reasons for gender selection, and fortunately for many parents, it is possible to achieve this through several methods. Let us first look at how IVF allows for this determination.
IVF treatment will take parents through several stages that will hopefully culminate in the implantation of an embryo with the desired gender. Once the parents have been screened, the woman is taken through ovarian stimulation. During this process, she will be prescribed hormone-based medications that will help stimulate the development of high-quality eggs.
Next, these eggs will be extracted from the ovaries through egg retrieval. At the same time, the man will make a semen contribution. The eggs and sperm are then combined in a lab setting to allow for fertilization and left for several days to permit embryo development.
After the embryos have developed for several days, a few cells are extracted for genetic testing. During this testing, the type and number of chromosomes are analyzed. Each embryo will then be classified according to XX chromosomes for a female and XY for a male. This allows for gender selection as a choice can then be made of which gender of embryos to be implanted. Another genetic testing will help determine the presence of chromosomal abnormalities, including sex-linked hereditary conditions.
Once the parents have chosen what gender of the child they want, the doctor can then transfer the best quality embryo(s) into the woman’s uterus in hopes, it will successfully implant, and she will get a positive pregnancy result.
This preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) is the most effective way to determine the sex of an embryo and, ultimately that of the child that will be born. It has a 96-97% accuracy rate. An additional benefit is that because IVF treatment results in multiple embryos being made, you can have them frozen and later used for subsequent pregnancies, with their genders already being determined during PGT. This process is especially advantageous for older women who are more prone to miscarriages due to conception with abnormal embryos. The genetic screening process can help ensure only healthy embryos are implanted and result in healthy babies.
This is another methodology used for gender selection that involves an attempt to separate fast-swimming sperm from slow-swimming sperm. This process is based on the premise that fast swimming sperm typically carry the Y chromosome for conceiving male babies. In contrast, slow swimming sperm carry the X chromosome for creating female babies.
In this process, the sperm needed to conceive the desired gender are separated and administered through artificial insemination (AI) for conception to occur. While a less expensive and non-invasive procedure than IVF, there is far less accuracy achieved through this process and low chances of successful conception. The success rate, according to Ericsson, has been reported to fall somewhere between 75-80%. You may need to undergo the AI process several times before getting a successful pregnancy result and fertility clinics do not widely use the procedure.
This less scientific-based methodology involves timing intercourse for specific days during the woman’s cycle, engaging in certain sex positions, and depths of penetration to boost the probability of conceiving a child of a particular gender. Charting the woman’s basal body temperature helps calculate ovulation and determine when it is best to have intercourse.
It works by having the couple aim to have intercourse as close as possible to ovulation if they want a boy and 2-4 days before ovulation if they want a girl. Again, working on the premise that sperms varying the Y chromosome move faster but do not live as long as slow-moving but longer-lasting sperms carrying the X chromosome.
Though some proponents state it can result in a 75% success rate in conceiving females and an 80% success rate in conceiving males, this may be an exaggeration. Any natural means of conception will still result in a 50-50% chance of conceiving either a male or female child.
This method also guides couples on when best to have intercourse to support the conception of babies of a specific gender. It somewhat contradicts the Shettles method. It suggests that having intercourse closer to ovulation will result in a female child, while having intercourse 4-6 days before basal temperature rises will result in a male child. Its creator, Elizabeth Whelan, estimated that her technique was 68% effective in conceiving boys and 56% effective in conceiving girls.
There are several options available to parents looking to undertake gender selection. However, the most accurate option remains the genetic testing part of IVF treatment. Other methods have yet to be conclusively verified through scientific means, no matter the success rates they indicate. With these alternatives, much is left to nature or chance that will ultimately result in a 50-50% chance of bearing a male or female child. If you have a strong need for gender selection, IVF remains your best option for success.