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What Is Sex Selection and Is It Right For Me?

Posted on December 21, 2023 in Fertility Treatment

Did you know?: “Sex selection” is the preferred term, as “gender” now generally refers to a person’s sexual identification.

Today, there is a wide variety of fertility treatments that allow individuals and couples to achieve their ideal family-building goals. For some, this means choosing what sex their child will be. Known as sex selection, aspiring parents often choose this option because they want to avoid passing down an inheritable sex-specific condition or for personal reasons. There are a few different ways that this can be accomplished, however, all ethical and medical considerations surrounding sex selection must be thoroughly discussed with your fertility specialist to ensure you understand the implications of the procedure and determine if it aligns with your needs and preferences.

Preimplantation Genetic Testing and Sex Selection

A child’s sex is based on the individual sperm fertilizing an egg. If it carries an "X" chromosome, the sex is female (XX), while a "Y" chromosome leads to a male birth (XY). Used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF), sex selection can be done through preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), which is typically used to screen embryos for chromosomal abnormalities and inheritable diseases. However, PGT can also be used to determine a child’s sex. With this form of sex selection, your chances of successfully having a child of the desired sex are extremely high specifically because it allows you to choose the specific embryo.

The Ericsson Method for Sex Selection

The Ericsson Method, founded in 1973, by Dr. Ronald J. Ericsson, involves isolating male sperm cells (i.e., sperm cells that carry a Y chromosome) from their genetic material. Sperm with the Y chromosome often move quicker than those carrying the X chromosome. With this process, sperm swim through albumin, a sticky protein liquid, as more Y-bearing than X-bearing sperm gradually speed through. When repeated, a sperm concentrate forms, containing a higher percentage of Y-bearing or X-bearing sperm than the original sample. This technique is often combined with intrauterine insemination (IUI). You should know that the Ericsson Method for sex selection may only increase the likelihood of conceiving a preferred sex. A specific sex, conception, and carrying a healthy pregnancy to term are not guaranteed.

The Fertility Center of California, Sperm Bank Inc. employs a proprietary technique based on the Ericsson Method. Leading to thousands of healthy births, average success rates range from 70-72% for male sex selection, and 69-75% for female gender selection. Resulting pregnancies and miscarriage chances are typically similar to natural conception, and there was no higher occurrence of birth defects.

Issues To Consider With Sex Selection

While you can undergo sex selection techniques, whether you should is another matter, as they may pose ethical, moral, or religious concerns. Among these issues are those for reproductive freedom, unknown risks to children, and potential societal gender bias and imbalances. Once sex selection is commonplace, patients may also demand other non-health-related traits in their embryos. Regarding the technology itself, some argue that it exists and should be used, not limited by physicians or professional societies.

As for healthcare, experts worry that medical care access may be limited. These processes are elective, not clinically indicated, and not covered by health insurance, meaning only the wealthy may undergo them. The United States has no regulations in place for sex selection, so these decisions may fall to patients themselves, along with the physicians and staff.

Explore All Concerns of Sex Selection, Before Fertility Treatment

Although not guaranteed, fertility treatment technology has progressed, allowing patients to select their babies’ sex, raising concerns, ethical or otherwise. If interested, you and your partner should consult with your fertility specialist prior to starting treatment. To schedule sex selection and other genetic testing, or for fertility questions, we encourage you to contact us today.

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