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Gender Selection Options
Choosing the sex of your baby. There is a natural desire among parents to want a child of a particular sex. Many times a couple wants to "balance their family." For example, they want one boy and one girl. In other instances there may be a medical reason to choose the sex of your child; for example, your family does not want to pass on a sex-linked inheritable disease such as hemophilia, which is an X-linked bleeding disorder that is passed from mother to son. In that situation, the parents may want to avoid the risk by having a girl instead.
Currently, the only legal method for gender selection in the United States that is close to 100 percent accurate is preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Natural Gender Selection Techniques
You may have heard of natural gender selection techniques that a couple can use to help them have a child of the sex they want. These methods include:
- Timing Methods. The Shettles Method is based on calculating the time of the woman's ovulation and them trying to conceive either before or during ovulation. It is based on Y-sperm (male producers) sperm swim faster but don’t live as long as the bigger, hardier X-sperm (female producers) sperm, and that the vaginal environment is acidic most of the time but becomes slightly more alkaline close to ovulation, which favors Y-sperm. Thus, to conceive a boy, a couple should have sex on the day of ovulation or one day before, and to conceive a girl, they should have sex two or three days before ovulation. Studies have failed to confirm that sex at ovulation would result in more boy babies, and the claim that Y-sperm swim faster has also been refuted. Another method, called the Shelan Method, advocates the opposite of the Shettles Method — it suggests intercourse four to six days prior to ovulation to increase likelihood of fertilization by male sperm; two to three days before ovulation for a girl.
- Other Methods. There are many "old wives tales" and at-home practices that couples may use to try for a specific sex naturally; for example, douching to change pH levels in the vagina, eating a specific diet to change pH levels in the vagina, drinking cough syrup before sex to thin the cervical mucus (making conditions more favorable for Y-sperm) or changing the depth of penetration or position during sex. None of these methods have ever been proven to be effective other than giving you a 50 percent chance of either sex, which is the same chance you would have anyway. But there are many anecdotes that say they work.
The Ericsson Method.
The Ericsson Method is a patented method based on the fact that the X chromosome is larger than the Y chromosome and should weigh more. It's important to note however that the Ericsson Method is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the success rates in terms of gender prediction are very low. The majority of clinics in the United States do not offer it or recommend it.
Semen is placed in a test tube on top of increasingly thicker layers of the protein albumin. Then it is rapidly spun in a centrifugal machine, which causes particles in a liquid to separate into layers, based on their density. The heavier, denser X-sperm (female producers) are thought to separate from the lighter Y-sperm (male producers), and then an all X or all Y sperm sample can be created.
The woman is then inseminated with the chosen X-sperm or Y-sperm sample. The doctor who created this method in the early 1970s has claimed a 78 percent to 85 percent success rate for boys and a 73 percent to 75 percent success rate for girls. However, other studies have shown that this method does not alternate the 50:50 chances of having a boy or girl.
Preimplantation Genetic Screening for Gender Selection
PGS in conjunction with IVF is 99.9 percent effective selecting the sex your child. You may also hear this technique referred to as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
PGS involves testing one cell or cells from an embryo created via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
With PGS, one cell from the embryo is removed to analyze its chromosomal makeup, which indicates whether the embryo is female or male. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus during the IVF cycle.
Fertility clinics across the United States offer PGS. While it is most often offered for screening for genetic diseases, its use for gender selection is becoming more mainstream.
Microsort is a technique that sorts male and female sperm. Sorted sperm are then placed in the uterus during an intrauterine insemination (IUI).
With Microsort, sperm absorb a dye which attaches to the DNA or genetic material inside the sperm. The X (female) chromosome is larger than the Y chromosome, thus absorbing more dye and displaying greater fluorescence when exposed to laser light. The difference in brightness is picked up by the flow cytometer (machine used in the process) and the sperm are sorted. Success rates using Microsort technology are close to 90 percent in conceiving a female, and close to 75 percent in conceiving a male.
You may have heard of Microsort because it was being offered at two clinics as part of a national study. However, similar to the above Ericsson Method, Microsort did not get approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as of March 2012, Microsort is no longer available in the United States.
Even if you have no known fertility issues, the best way to predict the gender of your baby is through IVF.