Gender Selection, also known as sex selection or family balancing refers to the selection of an offspring's sex before implantation of the embryo into the womb via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Some couples prefer to choose the gender of their offspring for a variety of reasons. A couple may opt for gender selection to avoid a “sex linked” genetic disease, such as Hemophilia. Other couples may desire to choose the sex of their baby to balance with the gender of their already existent offspring.
There are two methods of gender selection used today, sperm sorting, also known as Microsort technology, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Microsort is a method that enables the separation of X chromosome sperm from Y chromosome sperm, which then is used in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. Flow cytometry, the technique used to analyze and sort spermatozoa, relies on the DNA difference between the X and the Y Chromosomes.
Before flow cytometric sorting is actually applied, semen is tagged with a fluorescent dye that binds to the DNA of each spermatozoon. The larger female X chromosome bearing more DNA than the male Y chromosome will absorb more dye than its Y chromosome counterpart, causing the sperm with the X chromosomes to shine more brightly than the sperm with the Y chromosomes. The flow cytometer will detect the difference in brightness between the X and Y chromosomes and separate them as they move through the machine.
PGD, also known as embryo screening and PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening), is the only other method of gender selection that has been proven effective. In the past, PGD was most commonly used for diagnosis of a genetic disease in early embryos prior to implantation and pregnancy. More recently it has been used for testing common chromosome abnormalities. IVF with PGD refers to embryos resulting from an in-vitro fertilization cycle that are genetically screened for X or Y chromosomes. The embryos of the desired sex are implanted.
Gender selection success rates for both methods vary. Scientists claim that sperm sorting success rates for girls are higher than for boys, while PGD is at least 95% effective for both genders.
Although gender selection is legal in many countries, it still remains a controversial issue all over the world. Some countries, such as the UK, Australia and Canada, only allow sex selection if the offspring is in danger of a sex-linked genetic disorder. However, in countries, such as India and China, determining the sex of a fetus prior to birth is illegal. Yet, despite the limited availability and expense of sex selection procedures, its popularity is growing. In countries where gender selection is legal, cost is still an issue. In the United States, IVF with PGD can cost up to $19,000USD, which is why many Americans find themselves seeking IVF in Mexico, and gender selection in Cyprus. Some European countries, such as Germany and Italy have banned embryo freezing, egg donation and even embryo screening for genetic diseases.
The cost of gender selection abroad has proved to be an inexpensive and legal alternative to many couples who can't afford the cost of IVF in their country. Gender selection in the Islamic world remains controversial as well. In the absence of a clear ruling on the issue of gender selection, some modern scholars have been compelled to accept gender selection as being religiously permissible.
However, in some countries where gender selection has turned into gender discrimination, gender selection technologies are completely banned. This leaves barren couples who want to have a child and as well as select the gender of that child with no other choice but to cross borders to Muslim or non-Muslim countries where it is legal to carry out such methods of assisted reproductive technology or forfeit their chance of having a child.
Using PGD (pregenetic diagnosis) technology, or “sperm sorting” in order to identify male or female embryos, is an increasingly popular procedure for couples who want to ensure that any baby they have by assisted reproduction will be of a particular gender. In the United States and, the total cost of IVF with gender selection is generally $20,000 – $25 000. At popular VisitandCare.com “fertility destinations”, the cost starts at $8,750.