National Infertility Day

Gender Selection by IVF and Natural Pregnancy - Is It a Myth?


"A boy or a girl?" Future parents often hear this question. But can we independently choose the gender of our child? And is gender selection by IVF legal? What about ethics? Let's study the opportunities, pros, and cons of gender selection.

gender selection sex planning main image

As a child, when all the girls dreamed of becoming princesses, I was passionate about becoming an astronaut. Most importantly, I was ambitious enough to become the starship commander. I read all possible fantastic literature, pulled astronomy for 10th grade, and tried to behave well so that my dad, an astronomy teacher, would take me to the school telescope as a bonus. However, one day I had to face a cruel reality: it turned out that all future astronauts were boys. "Are you aware that there are no astronaut girls?" One of my friends asked me. It was a long time ago, but I still remember my dream of becoming a boy to get what I wanted.

And what if there was an opportunity to choose the sex of your baby? How would we use this? And our parents? For starters, it is necessary to understand how people acquire sex, and whether everything is as smooth and easy as most of us think.

How Do People Acquire Sex?

From school biology lessons, we all know that men have XY chromosomes, and women have XX. It would seem more straightforward: an egg always has one X chromosome, but the sperm can carry an X or Y chromosome. If a sperm carrying X chromosome combines with an egg, it gives a start to a girl.  Y-chromosome sperm gives birth to a boy. But nature did gender selection a little differently. 

how xy chromosomes work during sex selection

Indeed, these chromosomes play a role in gender formation. Chromosome X has the primary "female" genes, and chromosome Y carries the primary "male" genes. And these are not the genes for switching television channels, retelling anecdotes, interest in sports pages in newspapers, attachment to bloody films, and the inability to say the words of love on the phone. These are the genes that encode female and male physiological sex.

But if the X chromosome is responsible for the female features, and Y for the male ones, the question naturally arises: the man, after all, also has the X chromosome - the inheritance from his mother's egg, though only one. Does a man have female genes in addition to male ones? Scientists respond: to a certain extent - yes! It is effortless to check: if the Y chromosome breaks down, and in most cases due to mutations, the X chromosome genes start working in the male organism - the female type dominates it.

Biological Sex and Gender Selection

Therefore, gender formation is balance. The balance should be between female and male genes and hormones. And initially, the embryo is laid on a female type thanks to the X chromosome, and only then, when the city falls asleep, the Y-chromosome wakes up and transforms the body in a male way. 

how genes work

And only the next step, under the influence of male hormones, the brain matures, and masculine self-identity forms. Of course, one must not forget that many of the attributes of gender are related to external, social influence. 

And suddenly, this rearrangement has not happened to the end, and social factors are pushing for the formation of the wrong gender, which is in genes? Sometimes this happens, and different cultures of the world abound with examples of such incomplete restructuring. In India, there are hijras - men with the soul of a woman. Every year they come to the temple of the god Aravan - to participate in the marriage ceremony with the god. Krishna is a prototype of the hijra. He turned into a woman to marry Aravan. Indonesian Bugis have five genders.  Androgynes, women and men, women with a male soul and men with a female.

It turns out that not every person satisfies one's sex. Moreover, many moms and dads dream of having a child of a particular sex, even if they don't say it aloud. 

Sex Selection

And so, at the stage of pregnancy planning, traditional entertainment is programming the gender of a future baby. Here are some gender selection techniques you SHOULD NOT come up with: 

  • calculate gender by blood type, 
  • by date of birth, 
  • by moon phase, 
  • depending on the day of the menstrual cycle.

Of course, most of these methods of sex selection have no more truth than tarot cards.

The real possibility of sex selection came with the invention of ultrasound. This equipment plays Cassandra's role in predicting the sex of the future child. 

However, after its invention, many women decided to terminate the pregnancy. More than that, even now in India, the percentage of boys among newborns exceeds the number of girls. But as you remember, Cassandra did not end well. Ultrasound predictions do not always turn out to be accurate, as many readers could see. So, many couples went on the risky procedure of interruption and lost the children of the sex they wanted them to have.

Gender Selection by IVF

So what do we have now? Can we choose the sex of a future baby? At natural conception, it is unlikely to succeed. The only opportunity to get a child of the desired gender is artificial insemination. And in practice, it is possible to choose the sex of the baby only with the help of an extracorporeal fertilization procedure, or IVF

ivf process step by step

The inventor of IVF is English scientist Robert Edwards, who not only engaged in routine gynecological practice but was also very sympathetic to his infertile patients. Edwards came up with a woman's egg to help her fertilize. Embryologist Patrick Steptoe continued this practice. After ten years of trying and failing, on July 25, 1978, Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, was born.

People say that Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion became pregnant with IVF. There are multiple other IVF success stories

The essence of IVF is the following: a woman's egg is removed from the ovary and introduced to a tube sperm. In some cases, the sperm need a magic kick - it is injected into the egg, specifically with a thin needle under a microscope, it is ICSI. 

 After that, the real challenge begins. Embryologists grow the fertilized egg and nurse it, monitor its development, and, if all is well, transfer it to a woman's body. But there is one crucial caveat. The choice of gender is not allowed by law in all countries. To become pregnant with a baby of a particular sex, you will need to contact one of the clinics in Cyprus, Spain, or some US states, etc. 

Does this mean that gender selection pre-ordering the sex of the child is informal, but still practiced? Perhaps so, but even if you manage to deceive the law, then you can hardly avoid the slippery issues yourself. It would be better to consult IVF experts first. 

Future of the Sex Selection 

And at which of these stages it is possible to choose the sex of the child? The fact is that it is often determined only at the embryonic phase. Consequently, you need to make several embryos and choose one with the right sex. And this is where the first ethical problem arises. After all, all the other embryos, except the chosen one, are killed. However, they could have given birth to your children. There is also a second ethical problem. If today we choose the baby's gender, tomorrow we might want to select hair color, and increase IQ. 

baby and family image

And then what? Will we come to the clinics like a store, ordering the features and qualities of your child? Imagine, you go to the clinic, and you are greeted by an elegant secretary, with a well-put voice, tells you about ten signs that are trendy this year. Then the sex selection marketing comes on "Order ten featured and get one free!" And about the hot offer, "Heavenly baby eyes 50% off." Like it? With this approach, the child becomes a set of particular qualities. And don't forget - what you like won't necessarily be pleasing to your future baby. For example, I always dreamed of thick curly hair. And it happened that my daughter got just that, but she likes perfectly straight hair, so she straightens her gorgeous curls every morning.

So, at the current stage of medical development, we can choose the baby's gender. Officially or unofficially - another question. But will our future baby be happy with this choice? Are we entitled to decide instead of the unborn person? Try to answer honestly and make the right decision.