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Do You Want to Choose Your Future Child’s Gender?

Editor's Note: Microsort did not get approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and as of March 2012, Microsort is no longer available in the United States.

by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, January 18, 2010

In the age of consumer baby making, it was only inevitable that a technology would come along that would enable gender selection — the ability to choose the gender of our children. Microsort®, a company based in Fairfax, Virginia, now offers a way for perspective parents to separate the male bearing sperm and female bearing sperm and then use either Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or IVF to coax the conception of the gender of choice.

Daniel Potter, M.D., a fertility doctor with Huntington Reproductive Center, a fertility clinic in the U.S. that has partnered with Microsort®, says that while it’s not 100 percent accurate, the technology increases the natural one- to-one ratio of male to female bearing sperm. Using the technology, a couple gains a nine-out-of- ten chance of getting a girl and a four-out- of -five chance of getting a boy.

The technology, which was invented for the purpose of animal husbandry, is still making its way through FDA trials for use in humans, and the price tag is high. A typical cycle can add more than $3,000 to your bill at the fertility clinic and it’s not covered by insurance.

With Microsort®, the sperm is placed in a machine called a flow cytometer, which separates the sperm. "X chromosome sperm has more DNA proteins so the machine is able to recognize those and sort them out from the male," says Dr. Potter.

Gender selection, or family balancing, however, is not without controversy. Some doctors don’t believe it should be possible. "Some believe that the whole purpose of sex selection is for family balancing," said Dan Stein, M.D.,, a reproductive endocrinologist with St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York. "Others believe that sex selection should not even be a consideration because of how it can be abused, in nations that place far greater value on the life of a male versus the life of a female."

Ironically, in the United States, this new technology is revealing a new gender bias toward girls. Seventy-one percent of couples who use Microsort® choose to have girls, says Dr. Potter.

Some believe this s a result of the growing power of women in the modern economy – or it could simply be about the old-fashioned nursery rhyme that says little girls are made of “sugar and spice and all that’s nice,” and little boys are made of “frogs and snails and puppy dog tails. Dr. Potter, who is also the author of Family Balancing: Choosing the Gender of Your Next Child, has his own theory. “I think mothers are trying to re-create the relationship they had with their mother,” he says.

At least one study has suggested that, even if the technology were readily available, the market for choosing your child’s gender would be small. Dr. Tarun Jain, an RE with Advanced Reproductive Centers in Chicago, published a study in the February 2006 issues of Fertility and Sterility that found that less than 10 percent of 1,197 men and women surveyed said they’d want to select the sex of their child and 74 percent of those surveyed were opposed to sex selection. His study concluded that preconception sex selection technology using sperm separation is unlikely to be used by the majority of the United States population and is unlikely to have a significant impact on the natural sex ratio.

So though it appears the market for sex selection is small, and Microsort® technology is being offered at only a handful of clinics, when it comes to the latest technological playing field in the fertility game, girls seems to be winning.


Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009).