If you ask a pregnant woman if they have a preference for the sex of their unborn child, most will tell you that their only wish is to deliver a healthy baby. However, many parents-to-be do have a preference when it comes to the gender of their baby. Some wish to give their children siblings of a certain sex or acheive family balancing goals. Others fear passing on inherited chromosomal conditions. Regardless of their reasoning, parents who have a gender preference for their unborn child deserve accurate, ethical information about sex selection through assisted reproductive therapy. Keep reading to learn the science behind gender selection so you can make an informed decision when planning your pregnancy.
How is Sex Determined?
To understand sex selection during IVF, it’s important to know how the determination of a baby’s sex occurs naturally. A person’s chromosomes decide their biological sex. Chromosomes are tiny threads of genetic material that exist in our cells. Humans have 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent). A person inherits an X chromosome from their mother and either an X or Y chromosome from their father.
Babies born with two X chromosomes are female, and babies born with one X and one Y chromosome are male. While there are chromosomal conditions that can cause people to inherit a different combination of sex chromosomes (such as Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome), the vast majority of babies are born with either an XX or XY chromosome pair. Doctors can determine the gender of an embryo by biopsing and looking at the embryo’s chromosomes. While some scientists attempt to use this knowledge to influence a baby’s sex before conception, their methods have not been proven accurate.
What is Microsort?
If you are interested in selecting the sex of your baby, you may have heard of Microsort. Microsort is a technology that is designed to help parents chose the sex of their future baby. The technology is said to work by sorting sperm for certain genetic material using a centrifuge. After the sperm is sorted, it is used to create embryos of a particular sex. Clinicians will later implant these embryos to mother’s or surrogate’s uterus during intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) to create a baby of the desired sex.
Microsort is not a new technology. In fact, the New York Times reported on this technology 20 years ago. The first baby conceived using Microsort was born in 1995, and the technology had been used with cattle for years before 1995. But despite the technology’s long history, Microsort is not seen as an accurate method to select a baby’s gender.
Do We Use Microsort As A Sex Selection Method at Santa Monica Fertility?
We do not use Microsort at Santa Monica Fertility, as the technology is not FDA-approved and is not seen as a reliable sex selection method. While Microsort claims that its technology is accurate, researchers found that the Microsort process gives inaccurate results in 10-20% of cases. In 2011, the FDA ordered Microsort to stop their clinical trials and to stop implanting embryos produced with sperm cells sorted using the Microsort process.
Because Microsort is not FDA-approved, it is not available for clinical use anywhere in the United States, including California. While the treatment is available in several other countries (including Malaysia, Mexico, North Cyprus, and Switzerland), it is not currently commercially available within the US. Therefore, you should exercise caution if you see this procedure advertised at a local US clinic.
Older Methods of Gender Selection
Microsort is not the first technique invented in hopes of determining an embryo’s sex. Two of the most popular methods are the Whelan Method and the Shettles Method. Both methods operate on theories that sperm with an X chromosome and sperm with a Y chromosome behave differently and thrive in different environments. Couples using the Whelan Method will time intercourse to occur a certain number of days before ovulation, whereas couples using the Shettles Method will rely on both ovulation timing and different sex positions to conceive a child with a specific gender. These methods can be fun to try, but science shows that both methods are not an accurate way to predict the sex of your baby.
In another technique, called the Ericsson Method, clinicians sort sperm before an artificial insemination procedure. Couples might see this method as more “scientific,” since it requires a doctor’s assistance, but it is also an inaccurate method for selecting a baby’s sex.
PGS – Embryo Screening and Sex Selection
If, prior to reading this article, you were excited about Microsort or one of the other methods of sex selection we have mentioned, you might feel disappointed now. While there is anecdotal evidence online for the above methods, science tells us that they are not always successful in selecting a baby’s sex. Fortunately, we do have good news for people who would like to consider sex selection. There is one scientifically proven method for gender selection, and we are proud to offer it here at Santa Monica Fertility.
This proven method is called preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). This process is available for women conceiving with IVF. During PGS, an embryologist will remove a cluster of cells (which would later become the placenta) from a five-day-old embryo. The cells will be sent to a testing lab to determine which embryos contain the correct chromosome pairs. With the lab test results, the embryologist will know which embryos are male or female.
Parents can use PGS to find out the sex of each embryo (a baby to be) and choose which embryo/s they would like the doctor to implant during IVF. The PGS process is the only scientifically proven way to determine the sex of a future child.
It is important to note that, unlike the other methods mentioned, PGS does not claim to create embryos of a particular gender. Rather, the process screens embryos for genetic information, including sex chromosomes, and embryologists can then select which embryos to use for an IVF procedure.
Other Benefits of PGD Screening
PGS is not only useful for gender selection. During PGS, our IVF lab will receive the chromosome count for each tested embryo. This testing allows our embryologists to screen for chromosomal abnormalities so they can implant embryos without abnormalities during IVF. This process can prevent genetic conditions like Down syndrome and can also reduce the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy. For women struggling with infertility, PGS can help provide peace of mind during the IVF process.
If you are interested in PGS or if you would like more information about fertility treatments and your available options, contact us or call our clinic at (310) 566-1470.