Last month the New York Times reported on non-invasive tests available at drugstores and online that tell you the gender of an embryo as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. The tests, such as IntelliGender and Pink or Blue, use urine or blood to detect fetal DNA and indicate whether a woman is carrying a girl or a boy. In August the Journal of the Medical Association published research looking at data from 57 studies and found that tests using a mother’s blood were accurate, with the greatest accuracy after 20 weeks’ gestation, but that urine tests and those done before 7 weeks’ gestation were not reliable.
The Times reported that such early confirmation of a child’s gender – before a woman is showing her pregnancy or has often told others she’s expecting – raises some ethical concerns, namely the question of whether a woman or couple would opt to abort the child if it’s not the gender they wanted. Pam Belluck, the author of the article, also notes that these fetal sex tests can help couples who have a history of sex-linked disorders such as Huntingon’s disease and Tay-Sachs disease.
As you may know, many fertility centers offer sex selection. When embryos are screened for genetic disorders during preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the doctor can also find out what the sex of each embryo is. It’s a controversial issue and different fertility clinics handle the matter differently, with some stipulating no sex selection except where genetic health issues are a factor, while others are more liberal in allowing couples to choose the gender of their child. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s ethics committee’s report concluded that PGD for sex selection to prevent “the transmission of serious genetic disease is ethically acceptable.”
Have you sought out sex selection at a fertility clinic? Why did you opt to do so or not do so? Would you take one of the over-the-counter fetal sex tests if you were pregnant?