Baby Quest: Boy or Girl - You Decide

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
March 3, 2008 8:22:45 PM PST
Fertility research has come a long way since the first baby born through invitro fertilization 30 years ago. Now, parents can even choose the sex of their baby. Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Fertility specialist Jeffrey Steinberg has been doing in vitro fertilization since it started 30 years ago. Fast forward to 2008, and he now offers patients another breakthrough, choosing the sex of their children.

"If they want a boy, we give them only boys and if they want a girl, we give them only girls," said Dr. Steinberg, Medical Director of the The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles, California.

Gender selection for non-medical reasons is illegal in many countries -- China, India, Germany, the United Kingdom and even Canada. But in the United States, it's legal.

The most sure-fire way to have a boy or girl is with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. Once only done to separate healthy embryos from unhealthy ones, PGD is now done for the sole purpose of choosing a baby's sex.

"It's extraordinarily important to those that desire to have it," Dr. Steinberg said.

By extracting just one cell of an embryo before it's implanted, Dr. Steinberg can tell an embryo's sex. Two X's -- a girl. One X and one Y -- a boy.

"We're looking right at the genetics, and if the genetics say it's a boy, it's going to be a boy. And if the genetics say, it's a girl, it's going to be a girl," Dr. Steinberg said.

Kirsten Landon has already raised two girls. But Matthew, her husband of six years, wanted a baby of his own. They needed IVF and they chose Dr. Steinberg to do it because he also offered sex selection.

"We were quite focused," Kristen said. "We were like, 'We know what we want. Let's go get it.'"

They chose a girl.

Dr. Tarun Jain's studies show in the United States, the desire for boys or girls is equal.

"If they have two or three children that are all boys or all girls, they're interested in having the opposite sex," said Dr. Jain, a fertility specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But many Americans don't want the option. While 41 percent of infertility patients would choose their baby's sex, less than 18 percent of the general population would.

"I think there are still many people who strongly feel that this should not be allowed." Dr. Jain said.

And many clinics, including Dr. Jain's, won't do it. Ethicist Ken Goodman questions why people would want to.

"I've had three girls and two boys, therefore if I have one boy, I'll balance the family - as if your children were bookends," Dr. Goodman said.

What's more troubling, he says, is when people who don't have any children choose.

"They are basically saying that they want to use the science now of gender selection to discriminate against half of civilization, half of the people on Earth," he said.

But Dr. Steinberg says it's only a matter of time before gender selection is widely accepted.

"It's new," he said. "We know it's controversial. It scares people. But I've been doing in vitro fertilization for 30 years and 30 years ago, in vitro fertilization was new."

Kirsten and Matthew welcomed the option to choose. Now, they can't wait to welcome their daughter.

"Extraordinarily excited," Matthew said. "Ready? Well, I don't know if there's really a way to tell if you are ready or not."

Dr. Steinberg says 70 percent of his patients are from other countries where gender selection is illegal. Even major health organizations do not agree on the issues. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes gender selection for personal selection reasons, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says it is okay for family balancing.


For Jeffrey Steinberg, M.D.
The Fertility Institutes

Phone: (800) 222-2802

For Tarun Jain, M.D.
Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez
University of Illinois at Chicago
Public Relations

Phone: (312) 996-8277