Gender selection is a procedure that can be done during an In Vitro Fertilization cycle for patients who wish to choose the sex of their child. A typical IVF cycle is made up of 4 stages: follicle stimulation with hormone injections, egg retrieval, fertilization of eggs in an IVF dish, and transfer of one or more embryos into the patient’s uterus. The Gender selection step occurs after fertilization and before transfer. The technique used to identify an embryo of the desired sex is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Unlike sperm sorting which does not reliably identify the sex of the embryo, PGD has been investigated and demonstrated to be effective. This technique has an accuracy rate of 99%.
How PGD Works
When the developing embryo is 5 days old, it has many cells, some destined to become the fetus and others the placenta. The procedure involves using a laser to create a small hole in the protective shell of the embryo to allow the removal of some cells destined to be the placenta for evaluation. The biopsied cells usually represents the characteristics of all the cells in the embryo. The cells are examined for the X and Y chromosomes in order to accurately determine the gender of the embryo. In addition, a survey of all chromosomes can be carried out on the same sample helping to assure that the embryos is chromosomally normal and capable of producing a normal child. Embryos are typically frozen after being biopsied and transferred at a later time to improve implantation in the uterus.
Why Choose PGD?
Couples may choose to use this technology for a number of reasons. For example, they may have several children of one sex and wish to balance their family with a child of the opposite sex. Or, they may be concerned about a genetic disease that tends to affect male children more than female children. For others it is a personal parenting decision. The gender selection process can also be easily combined with further evaluation of all chromosomes in order to prevent the transfer of a chromosomally abnormal embryo.
What Technology is Used?
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is the only reliable method for selecting the gender of a child. Sperm sorting is sometimes used by couples in the hope of increasing the chances of conceiving a child of the desired sex. However, the effectiveness of this method is unreliable lacking data from large, multicenter trials.
Is This Process Safe and Reliable?
The process of PGD does not prevent an embryo from developing normally. The results of the evaluation are available after about 2 days. This means the embryo is transferred to the mother’s womb on the 5th day instead of the 3rd day. This is still within the time frame for successful embryo transfer. This method of determining the sex of an embryo has been shown to be 99% accurate.
Why Might Patients Choose this Option?
Patients sometimes use gender selection if they already have children of one gender and wish to balance their family with a child of the opposite gender. Or, the family may have a history of genetic disorders that are passed down through the X chromosome. These recessive traits typically affect male children because they have only one X chromosome. Choosing to have a girl makes it unlikely that this disease will affect the child. Some patients simply prefer to have a child of a specific gender.