Choosing your child's gender

thoughtful couple

Would you? It’s possible and legal in the United States even though the moral implications may be a bit blurry. Genetic screening techniques, in particular pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) was originally developed two decades ago to allow embryos to be tested for genetic disease - also allow parents to know the sex of their unborn child. This is done during the in vitro fertilization process where the eggs are fertilized then implanted in the mother’s uterus.

With PGD embryos can be tested for many genetic disorders and only those which are deemed healthy to survive make the cut for implantation. This enables parents who carry a genetic disorder to be assured of a healthy pregnancy and child. But PGD is also being used to allow people to select the gender of the embryo implanted.

Most countries have banned the use of PGD for sex determination. This is not the case in the United States where 70% of patients making sex determination actually come from outside this country where the procedure is illegal.

Fertility expert Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg uses PGD for gender selection. He told CNN’s Vital Signs program that many of his clients are trying to achieve “family balancing” by ensuring children of both sexes. If they have a boy, they select a female embryo and vice versa.

Some people argue that widespread use of gender selection could upset the natural balance of the sexes. Some countries have a cultural bias toward one sex or the other, China and India for instance both have a traditional preference for boys. Dr. Mark Hughes, who pioneered PGD, has concerns about the use of the screening for non-medical purposes. “It definitely is an expanded reproductive choice. The question is, is it medicine? Is it something that doctors should be involved in?” he told CNN.

There is likely no solution for families wanting greater choice and medicine expanding the possibilities. Some call it playing God, while others are grateful for the information and opportunity.



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