I was at a playdate with my friend Lisa a few years ago when she asked that aged old question, “Are you going to go for a boy?” I paused, ahhh no I don’t think so. Having two girls is more than enough for me… Lisa went on to say that “they” were going to try for a boy (the team: Lisa of course, her husband and…her Dr.) Her husband desperately wanted a boy so they would start rounds of IVF so they could “get” one. Lisa said that after creating the embryos, they would only implant the boy embryos.
WHAAATTTT???? I almost chocked on my coffee. They actually do that? I thought that was just something you see in sci-fi flicks.
One of the most trending procedures for prospective parents going through the rigorous rounds of IVF is to choose embryos depending on their counts of X and Y chromosomes. Apparently, this procedure is called “family balancing”. Most people going through IVF that choose to go through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (or ‘PGD’) to look for embryos of choice, prefer not to call it Sex Selection. Sex selection would lead us to believe some Dr. is “cloning” a baby or associate it with the 100 million little girls that went “missing” in China and India. Really it’s usually as simple as a couple having 3-5 embryos, implanting 2-3 and deciding to choose sex of preference. Almost always they are trying to balance out their small families to have at least one boy or one girl. Doctors do genetic testing that is usually used to screen for genetic disorders to find out what flavor of embryos they have available to implant, adding an extra $2,500-$3,000 onto an already hefty IVF bill.
We have all heard those jokes that IVF babies are smarter and genetically superior; they are after all the best of the best on the petri dish. But there are also those families that are choosing to go for “family balancing” even though they do not need any fertility treatments. The IVF with combined PDG can cost upwards of $20K. I would probably term this as “Sex Selection” because they will only implant embryos of one sex and may not launch ship without the right embryo. Apparently, it is a lot more mainstream for current IVF patients to “add-on” PGD to existing IVF rounds.
The other day my friend Ann who was going through IVF rounds texted me a picture of her petri dish on implantation day. It read – look at my adorable baby girls! This time I got what was going on right away; my friend was already going through IVF and came out with some precious girl embryos and that’s what she decided to implant. I was so happy for her.
The debate over family balancing is an obvious one: why should we as parents be able to override Natural Selection or the Devine Creation process - or whatever it is that you believe balances out the human race to have 100-little girls for 101 little boys. Will the selections parents are making in IVF clinics throw off nature’s balancing act? Canada, the UK and Australia seem to think so and have made it illegal to use PGD for family balancing unless it’s to prevent sex related genetic disorders. From what I understand, there is still some element of chance as it relates to PGD in that the couple is not guaranteed the baby’s sex – in other words, the science is not perfect. Maybe that’s where Natural selection or Devine creation steps in?
Really the vast majority of people undergoing IVF do it for a healthy baby. They are thrilled to even have a couple embryos and maybe one or two to freeze for a bigger family. They rarely care about sex. They’ve already been through too much heartache. By the time their embryos get to a stage to find the sex there aren’t usually a lot left. A lot of people don’t get a choice and a lot of people just tell the Dr to put in the highest “grade” embryo in hopes of having a chance. So for those small number who actually get to “choose” sex it’s doubtful it would make any shift in the larger population.