Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Bridgette Springer
Oh, the joys of being pregnant and thinking about your baby. What will the baby look like? Will it have your eyes? And most importantly, will it be a boy or a girl? Well, with some advanced planning, you can pre-determine the sex of your little one.
The concept may be hard to wrap your mind around, but technology has evolved to the point where you can put your best dollar forward and invest in the baby’s X or Y chromosome. Forget about waiting until your ultrasound to discover how the dice have rolled, you can get ahead of the curve with scientific measures. And yet, the thought of being so technically involved in a pregnancy may not be for everyone.
According to Eleanor Nicholl, Public Affairs Manager for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there are two methods for trying to conceive a baby of a certain sex. The first method is sperm sorting and artificial insemination. This sorting process is not 100 percent effective, but it is very effective according to Nicholl. Secondly, there is IVF, followed by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, in which a cell is removed from each embryo. The chromosomes within each cell are then examined with only an embryo of the desired sex being transferred.
There are no policies in the United States controlling PGD, and therefore no statistics on the number of women seeking the procedure or clinics which offer the service. The best way to find a reliable practice which offers the technique is by inquiring at a fertility clinic.
Here in New Hampshire, the Fertility Centers of New England with locations in Massachusetts and Portsmouth has offered sex selection for “family balancing” since October 2010.
According to Dr. Joseph A Hill of the Fertility Center of New England, they have been performing PGD for years on the basis of sex linked disorders. The average person requesting family balancing services are women in their mid-30s who have had two children and want a child of opposite sex. To undergo treatment at the Portsmouth clinic, you must have a least one child previously, which follows the ASRM ethic committee guidelines.
“In most areas of the country the cost is $20,000 to undergo PGD for family balancing,” said Dr. Hill. At the Fertility Clinic of New England, they offer an inclusive price of $9,000, which does not include the drugs to stimulate ovaries and eggs, or the actual PGD procedure. “No more than two embryos are transferred to the women and the remaining embryos are frozen. “We do not discard embryos,” said Dr. Hill. In addition Dr. Hill stated that family balancing is not recommended for people who have trouble getting pregnant, and it is not 100 percent guaranteed women will conceive.
Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D., co- founder and associative executive director, with the Center for Genetics and Society, a non-profit public interest group which has followed gender selection since the late 1990’s cloning of Dolly the sheep, points out they are strongly against the use of PGD for “family balancing.”
“We become faced with a moral dilemma. If choosing your baby’s sex is OK, then what about their eye color, height, and other traits? In fact, there is a southern California fertility clinic that started advertising future parents could use PGD to select traits of future children,” she said.
According to Darnovsky, fertility is a business and establishing PGD as a means for choosing gender opens up a whole new market or customer base for the fertility industry.
“We don’t like to think about it like that since it is about our children and parents that want a family. But we have to face the fact it is a multi-billion industry in the U.S. alone.” And, not only is PGD unnecessary for parents who only want to choose their baby’s gender, it is costly, because there are no insurance mandates for the technique, resulting in out-of-pocket payments and clinics competing for customers.
The biggest concern about PGD comes down to the ethical implications. According to the ASRM ethics committee report on the subject, “Interest in sex selection has a long history in ancient cultures.”
In fact, cultural discrimination in India has included infanticide and sex-selective abortion. To add to the problem, Darnovsky pointed out that when ultrasound was introduced in India and China, it spread quickly, going from village to village causing a worsening sex ratio problem where boys are being chosen over girls. According to Darnovsky, the problem has become so rampant in certain parts of the world that men are unable to find brides, which has lead to increased sex trafficking.
In the U.S., PGD begs the question of just how much one would want to meddle with a baby’s characteristics.
“In our society, especially women, want girls. When parents go to great lengths to have a particular sex, they have a certain stereotype in mind, and it puts undo expectations on kids, whether they are athletic boys or girly girls. We really need to look at what it means to pre-select since it has the problems of gender stereotyping, and skewed parental expectations which can be bad for the whole family. Do we want to live in a world where parents choose the traits of children?” said Darnovsky.
Bridgette Springer is a freelance writer juggling motherhood in Stratham. She is a contributor to regional newspapers, magazines, and marketing projects. Bridgette can be reached at email@example.com.
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator Jul 18, 2012.