GENDER SELECTION - SEX SELECTION
The desire to choose the sex of the unborn child is probably as old as history itself. Warlike societies in particular, prefer male children to inherit the throne. In modern times, however, girls are increasingly becoming the preferred sex. Throughout history, people have tried countless methods for sex selection (Gender selection) but almost none of them have been successful. Sexual positions, timing intercourse according to seasons, trying different food and food preparations are all very unscientific ways for determining the sex of the baby. Some methods might increase the probability of conceiving a certain sex but none is guaranteed to be successful. Currently the most reliable way for choosing the sex of the baby is through a method called Preconception Gender Selection (PGS). This is a process where the embryo obtained has genetic testing on a cell removed from the embryo at the 8 cell stage.
Sex selection is only done on embryos that have been obtained during infertility treatment. Other techniques are deemed either ineffectual or unethical.
As is commonly known, X and Y are the sex chromosomes. A male has 46 chromosomes and an X and Y chromosome and this is written as 46, XY. Women have two X chromosomes and this is shown as 46, XX, a gamete from a woman contains 23 chromosomes: 22 chromosomes plus one X chromosome. Male gametes have either one X or Y chromosome in addition to the 22 other chromosomes to make a total of 23. While eggs carry the X chromosome only, there are two types of sperm cells, ones that carry the X and ones that carry the Y chromosome. One can deduce from this that the sex chromosome that’s on the sperm cell determines the gender of the baby. One can either determine the sex of the baby by sperm-separating technique or by testing the embryo and selecting the embryos with the desired sex to transfer back into the uterus.
Efforts to perfect techniques for sex selection have been questioned both from an ethical and a moral standpoint.
Increasing preference of one sex over the other could lead to the sexism and oppression by violence or other means. In underdeveloped countries where gender selection is practiced more commonly, the ratio of women to men has decreased leading to prostitution, selling of women or girls or increased bride price.
PGD has not yet reached a stage where one can make “designer babies”. Technology does have the potential to develop ways to manipulate the genetic make up of an individual to create superior traits. This might lead to inequalities in the social structure. Even today selection of embryos that might lead to congenital abnormalities in the baby is considered unethical in some circles.
The technique is accurate but does not have a 100% guarantee. Gender selection might cause psychological harm if the procedure does not produce a child of the desired sex. This can affect the child born as well as the parents.
Selection of a baby’s gender allows parents to create a child to suit their needs and thus fail to respect the child as an individual. This topic is among the topics that ethicists discuss pertaining to sex selection.
Historical and Unscientific Approaches to Gender Selection
Methods claiming to achieve sex selection have existed for thousands of years. Since the chance of obtaining one sex or other is 50%, some people are convinced of their efficacy. Practice of some of these methods continues in our day under the assumption that it has scientific backing.
Aristotle had suggested tying the left testes of those men who want to father boys in 330BC.
Some believe that timing intercourse can determine the sex of the baby and have developed astrological calendars to guide them. Among these the method that appears the most scientific is the Materna-Babychoice method which claims 98% accurate results. It works under the premise that there are some days where the egg is receptive to the Y bearing sperm and other days where it is receptive to the X bearing sperm. There is a calendar developed for this purpose so couples can time their intercourse according to their desired gender.
Shettle Method: Practiced most commonly in Europe and the United States. This method relies on the assumption that the Y bearing sperm swim faster and the X bearing sperm live longer. Timing intercourse immediately after ovulation increases the probability of having a boy. In short the method suggests intercourse a couple of days before ovulation for a boy and a couple of days after ovulation for a girl. If the woman has an orgasm then chances are higher for a boy if she does not then it’s more likely a girl. If penetration during intercourse is deep then probability for a boy increases, if it’s not then the probability for a girl increase.
A publication from 2006 claims that the probability of a woman to have a boy increases if she has had a prior Toxoplasma infection.
It is illegal in all countries to terminate pregnancy if the baby is not of the desired gender. Unfortunately though, it is still practiced in China, India and Southern Asian countries. Although it is illegal, there are teams of people who travel from village to village with a portable ultrasound machine to identify the sex of the unborn baby and abort if requested
Most developed countries have Preconception Gender Selection available legally. The methods used most commonly in these countries are PGS and sperm separation
Tests needed for men
- HBs Aq
Tests needed for women
- Toxo Iq G.
- Toxo Igm
- CMV Igm
- HBs Aq
- Rubella Ig G