A couple that wants to conceive may say that they’re only interested in having a healthy baby, whether boy or girl. Aspiring parents have a 50/50 chance of having a child of either gender through plain old conventional intercourse. However, it is apparent that some may want to be able to determine the gender of their child for a couple of reasons. The most common reason is the need for “Family Balancing” whereby they want a certain number of sons and daughters. However, others may have more serious reasons such as wanting to shield their children from inheriting gender based genetically transmitted diseases or disorders.
Globally, celebrities such as Supermodel Chrissy Teigen (John Legend’s wife) has publicly talked about her struggles with infertility and how she had the option of choosing a female embryo while undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For anyone unfamiliar with the IVF process, the option to choose the gender of your baby may seem futuristic. However, an IVF doctor can determine a child’s gender before the implantation process through genetic testing.
Testing for gender selection
Gender selection is now possible thanks to a procedure known as per-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) or pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS). During the IVF procedure, a fertility doctors creates embryos by combining the female’s eggs with the sperm in a petri dish in a lab. When those embryos are a few days old, a testing is done to determine if any embryo has any chromosomal abnormalities that could result in a birth defect or developmental issue using PGD.
This means that the embryos are put under a microscope, and (very delicately) a few cells are removed. The cells are then analyzed to ensure that they have a normal genetic makeup—that is, pairs of chromosomes 1 through 23.
Doctors also take a close look at the X and Y-chromosomes to check for abnormalities; and at that point, the gender of each embryo, XX or XY, becomes obvious. When the prospective parents are briefed on which of their embryos are healthy and viable, they may also be told which are female and which are male.
Patients can also choose to freeze other healthy embryos that they may not use immediately for use in later pregnancies.
Is the technology a reason to celebrate?
Technological advances have come in as a welcome relief to many human problems, thereby making life easy. When you consider the investment couples are making for the IVF process, the additional cost for PGD (gender selection) is worth it. This is especially so for those couples that want to ensure a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby Who is not at risk of developing any gender based genetic disorder. This is especially true, for women who are at the age of 35 years or older who are predisposed to the risk of having a genetically abnormal embryo. Prospective parents who are carriers of genetic diseases will want to ensure they don’t pass on those traits to their babies.
Now that the technology exists here in Kenya at Fertility Point, it would be injudicious for a fertility doctor to transfer an embryo whose genetics are unknown. In so doing, we are creating healthier babies, thus ultimately saving money on testing and treatment of disorders once the baby is born.
Despite these advancements in reproductive health, it is ‘unacceptable’ for fertility experts to use IVF and PGD solely for gender selection. This could lead to sexist preferences and lopsided populations as seen in other countries. At Fertility Point, we screen embryos for health reasons. But if a patient wants to know the gender as a by-product, we do provide them with the information.
Discuss your options with your IVF clinic
While there are many factors to consider when it comes to gender selection and IVF, it is helpful to discuss your concerns with a reputable fertility expert. This will allow you to go over all the pros and cons of the process, and what you should consider about it. They will help you make the right decision for your needs.
If you would like to learn more about genetic screening and gender selection during IVF, and why it may be a good option to consider, contact Fertility Point Kenya.