Despite the current technology flood, it wasn’t long ago that all a mother knew about the baby she was carrying was the fact that she had one in the first place. But as analog methodology gave way to ultrasounds, and ultrasounds to amniocentesis, it became clear that knowing about your baby, even before birth, was becoming not just medically sound, but almost trendy.
Now parents have another choice to make when it comes to knowing about their baby: what sex it should be.
Increasingly, parents around the country are turning to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to ensure the gender of their children. While in vitro fertilization – the process by which a woman’s eggs are fertilized by a man’s sperm in a lab dish – has been around for years, it has traditionally only been used by couples who were infertile.
Now, however, IVF is being used for more than simply having a baby. Would-be parents are using the procedure to find an embryo with the preferred gender in a lab, which is then implanted in the mother.
The process allows parents to precisely and scientifically choose the gender of their baby, though it doesn’t always lead to a successful childbirth. It can also be very expensive, ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars for the procedure alone.
Yet, the price of gender screening doesn’t seem to be fazing many, as a growing number of couples are choosing the procedure to balance their families, choosing to add a boy to a family of girls, or vice versa.
Despite the seemingly noble cause for this procedure, however, gender screening is a controversial topic. Though there is currently no legislation regulating the process, it has been banned in a number of countries, including Canada, France and Great Britain.
Critics of the procedure, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), say that it’s simply another way to control nature, a scenario many compare to “playing God.” But many in the medical community see the procedure, if unfavorably, in a more practical light: they want the procedure used for its original purpose.
The original intent of embryo screening was not, in fact, to pick out the sex of the child, but rather to screen embryos for potentially fatal diseases that could be found in the genome of the cells. The process continues to develop, and can screen for around 100 fatal diseases.
Yet, the procedure is growing in popularity, not for it’s disease fighting capability, nor for its potential to wipe out such genetic diseases all together. Rather, one of its biggest draws is its ability to help couples choose their baby’s gender.
In both cases, however, the technology is important and remarkable. As it continues to advance in terms of ease, cost and availability, the procedure is likely to continue growing in popularity. And while the breadth and consequences of that popularity remains to be seen, the ability to choose the gender of one’s child remains a topic that is dear to some and dangerous to others.