Choosing the gender of your unborn child is entirely possible thanks to the miracles of science. However, parents must now decide if choosing their baby's sex is worth the financial, moral and emotional obligation that comes with such an invasive procedure.
Most methods of gender selection involve some type of in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination. Conception takes place when a sperm fertilizes a female egg. Normally this takes place inside a woman's body, implanting in the uterus. With IVF, the fertilization process takes place outside the woman's body. The fertilized egg is then returned to the uterus where it is expected to develop. With AI, a concentrated sperm sample is inserted directly into the uterus, giving the sperm a better chance to reach the egg and fertilize it. Using these methods, other steps can be taken during the process to identify or exclude male sperm and female sperm. Microsort, for instance, is a method that identifies male and female sperm by using a dye. The desired sperm sex is then returned to the uterus where it may fertilize an egg. Obviously, this method depends on visualization and is not always accurate. The Ericsson method uses the concept that male sperm swim faster than female sperm. The sperm can be identified and sorted and the desired sex-producing sperm inserted back into the uterus. Success rates vary and are controversial. The Whelan method builds on the idea that timing intercourse may determine the gender of the baby.
New moral dilemmas have also sprung up with the advent of new scientific techniques. Parents and those in the medical and science profession) may ask themselves if it is wrong to select an unborn baby's gender. Some believe this task should be left up to chance, nature or a spiritual deity and may feel conflicted if sperm or embryos are destroyed during the scientific process.
One of the greatest concerns about gender selection is the cost. IVF and AI, for instance, carry a hefty pricetag and a success is not guaranteed. With a single round of IVF costing an average of $12,400--which does not include any additional gender selection procedures and is typically not covered by insurance--gender selection is simply out of reach for many parents. Some may be able to afford IVF, but if it is not successful, repeat procedures may not be an option. Aside from the financial burden of the procedures are the cost for fertility drugs, multiple doctors' fees and other associated costs.
Health and Gender Selection
Other than the desire to have a 'designer baby,' there is another reason that couples choose the gender of their child. Certain health conditions and diseases are passed on to the baby of one sex, but not another. For instance, hemophilia and Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy are gender-specific diseases. Gender selection prevents the baby from getting the disease, and sometimes from being a carrier of the disease as well.
The bottom line is that gender selection is a financial, emotional and moral decision that must be weighed carefully by parents, and should not be made without consulting a medical professional. OBGYNs and practitioners specializing in advanced reproductive techniques should help parents gather information and determine if there are any other options if a specific gender is desired.