Sex selection is the attempt to control the sex of the offspring to achieve a desired sex. It can be accomplished in several ways, both pre- and post-implantation of an embryo, as well as at birth.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)
After ovarian stimulation, multiple eggs are removed from the mother. The eggs are fertilized in the laboratory using the father’s sperm in a technique called in vitro fertilization (IVF). “In vitro” is Latin for “within glass”. Fertilized eggs are called embryos. As the embryos develop through mitosis, they are separated by sex. Embryos of the desired gender are implanted back in the mother’s uterus.
Prior to fertilization with IVF, the fertilized eggs can be genetically biopsied with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to increase fertilization success. Once an embryo grows to a 6-8 cell size, a small laser incision in the egg membrane (zona pellucida) allows safe removal of one of the cells. Every cell in the embryo contains an identical copy of the genome of the entire person. Removal of one of these cells does not harm the developing embryo. An embryologist then studies the chromosomes in the extracted cells for genetic defects and for a definite analysis of the embryo’s gender. Embryos of the desired sex and with acceptable genetics are then placed back into the mother.
The IVF/PGD technique is favored over the Ericsson method because of the stricter control of the offspring gender in the laboratory. Since only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the mother, IVF/PGD avoids the small likelihood present in the Ericsson method of an undesired sperm fertilizing the egg. Gender selection success rates for IVF/PGD are very high. The technique is recommended for couples who will not accept a child of the undesired gender.