Most gender selection parents choose a girl

10:30 AEST Tue Sep 18 2012
Kimberly Gillan
More American couples than ever are choosing the gender of their babies
More couples are choosing the gender of their babies (Thinkstock)

More American couples than ever are choosing the gender of their babies, and doctors say the majority are choosing girls.

While Chinese and Indian parents are more likely to abort female foetuses due to cultural beliefs, a report on slate.com said doctors estimate 80 percent of US families opt for baby girls.

It costs as much as $40,000 and the gender selection industry is worth at least $100 million a year.

Gender selection is banned in New Zealand, although some couples choose to travel to the US in order to choose their baby's sex.

The procedure involves harvesting women's eggs then fertilising them with sperm. After three days of incubation, an embryologist uses a laser to slice the embryo's protective membrane and remove one of the eight cells.

Using fluorescent dyes, the embryologist determines whether the embryo is carrying XX (female) or XY (male) chromosomes.

If the embryo is the desired sex, it will be implanted into a woman's uterus and the remaining seven cells will continue to develop normally.

Dr Lyndon Hale, medical director at Melbourne IVF, told MSN NZ that they receive requests from parents who want to select their baby's gender.

"Certainly we get requests from people on the IVF treatment already saying, 'If there is a number of embryos can we choose a girl?' We'd say no because it's against the law," he said.

"I do know of a number of couples who have gone overseas."

Dr Hale says the anecdotal evidence means it's difficult to predict why girls are more popular.

"You'd need to have more research as to why more US people are choosing girls –– is it mainly coming from families with a boy and want to balance it with a girl or were there religious reasons?" he said.

While Dr Hale said it's unlikely we'd ever see the laws change in Australia, he personally doesn't have any issues with gender selection.

"There may be scenarios where it would be reasonable for family balancing reasons," he said.

"It's hard to see the laws changing because it's quite an emotional debate. There is a thought that you should just be happy that you got a healthy child."

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a University of Melbourne senior lecturer in social science, told MSN NZ the desire to select a baby's sex is not new.

"People have been trying to choose the sex of their baby for eons," she said.

"The web is full of home remedies, such as douching with vinegar."

Dr Rosewarne said it's interesting to hear more parents are choosing girls.

"Perhaps there is an assumption that raising a girl is an easier ride," she said.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine is concerned gender-selected children will have difficulty living up to their parents' expectations.

"If you’re going through the trouble and expense to select a child of a certain sex, you're encouraging gender stereotypes that are damaging to women and girls,' Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, told Slate.com.

"What if you get a girl who wants to play basketball? You can't send her back."


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