Published on March 17th, 2021
Being a grown-up means getting the power of choice. You pick the movie you want to watch, the clothes you wear, the people you spend time with (well, except for relatives around the holidays, of course!). But can you pick the gender of your baby? Short answer: Yes…if you have the budget for it. Long answer: Keep reading.
Gender Selection through IVF and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
Amid the old wives’ tales and pseudoscience, so far, there is only one clinically-proven way to choose the gender of your baby—gender selection through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
Whoa, that’s a lot of medical jargon.
Think of getting pregnant au natural kind of like choosing a delicious treat out of a box of chocolates. Half the box of chocolates is full of caramel-centered (boy) and the other half chocolate buttercream (girl). In this box, each of the chocolates look identical, their only difference is in the filling. When you’re making a baby in the “old-fashioned way,” you close your eyes and pick a chocolate at random.
With PGD, you’re not choosing blind. This process essentially gives you a chocolate map so you can choose exactly which kind of sweetness you’ll be bringing into your life.
This process breaks down into two key steps:
- Step one is IVF. IVF is a series of procedures that helps fertility. Essentially, through this fertility treatment process, mature eggs are removed from a woman’s body to meet healthy male sperm cells in a laboratory setting. From there, the sperm cells fuse with the eggs to become the cellular beginnings of a baby in adorable little Petri dishes. If not covered by insurance, one round of IVF costs around $10,00-15,000.
- Step two is PGD. PGD is an added, optional stage of the IVF process in which a medical professional runs a DNA screen on the embryos. PGD is predominantly used to check for genetic predispositions for hereditary diseases, but a major side benefit is that it also provides the sex of each embryo. From there, the prospective parents can choose which embryo(s) to implant in the mother’s womb, and the baby’s gender can be one of the considerations. PGD can cost about $5,000-10,000.
A Crash Course in the IVF Process
IVF is a medical process that helps women get pregnant by artificially fertilizing, developing, then implanting an embryo into a woman’s body. It’s also a necessary first step for gender selection through PGD.
1. Ovulation induction: a.k.a. make some eggs (bacon optional) – Eggs are essential to a perfect brunch and putting a bun in the oven. The first stage of IVF involves ensuring sure you have enough eggs. An IVF medical specialist will prescribe medication that encourages your ovaries to grow and mature several eggs, essentially inducing ovulation. You may have regular ultrasound appointments and blood tests to ensure your hormone levels are where they need to be for proper egg development.
2. Egg retrieval – After your body has produced enough eggs, your doctor will retrieve the eggs from your body (where they’ll eventually meet handsome sperm in a laboratory). This stage is called egg retrieval. Egg retrieval is a surgical procedure but a minor one.
Your medical provider will give you medication to ease discomfort, then insert a thin tube through your vagina, which travels up to the ovaries. The tube has suction abilities and will gently pull 15-20 eggs loose from your ovaries and into a secure container.
Why does this process require you to produce (and your medical provider to retrieve) so many eggs? Probability. The more eggs the fertilization specialist has to work with, the better chance of successful fertilization.
3. Insemination: a.k.a. the single reproductive cells mixer at the laboratory – When you put a bunch of single people into a room together, chances are, people pair up. That’s exactly what the fertility specialist does with your eggs. Eggs and male sperm cells are mixed together in a special container. From there, things pretty much happen the same as they would naturally. Sperm fuse with eggs, fertilizing them. Then, the cells divide and become embryos—the microscopic start of a baby-to-be—all under the watchful eye of lab monitors.
4. Embryo transfer: a.k.a. back to Mom’s house – A few days after egg retrieval, when eggs and sperm have leveled up to become embryos, it’s time to head back to Mom’s—the womb. This requires another procedure that’s the inverse of egg retrieval. A thin tube is inserted into the cervix, and one or more embryos will travel through the tube and into the woman’s uterus. There’s no place like home!
Pregnancy only occurs when any of the embryos attach to the lining of the uterus. That’s why IVF usually involves sending multiple embryos back to the comforts of the womb. It increases the chance that one embryo will implant. However, your medical professional will give a recommendation based on your health, age, and the quality of the embryos.
For example, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology recommends that younger patients with minimal fertility concerns can transfer one or two embryos in one IVF cycle. But for IVF patients with more specific fertility concerns or who are in their late 30s and 40s, medical experts may recommend as many as four embryos be transferred.
While increasing embryos helps improve your chances of implantation, it also increases your chance of multiples (twins, triplets) quite a bit! In fact, 1 out of 3 women who use IVF will become pregnant with multiples.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
Still wondering how to have a baby girl or how to have a baby boy using this process? That is where PGD comes into play. This process occurs between intrauterine insemination and embryo transfer. Let’s rewind the clock to insemination: the eggs are inseminated, cells have divided, and embryos are ready for their next big act of embryo transfer! PGD is performed at this moment.
The three steps of PGD include:
1. Microsurgery – Around day 3 of the embryo’s development, a teeny tiny bit of the embryo is removed in a biopsy using microsurgery. How tiny are we talking? One or two cells out of the 100-150 cells that make up the embryo. This does not affect the health of the embryos. Think of it like gently plucking a stray hair from your soon-to-be baby’s head. Easy peasy microsurgery.
2. Genetic Testing – The sample undergoes a DNA test where embryologists (scientists who study embryos) look for:
- Hereditary diseases like Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis
- Signs of health within the embryonic cells to indicate its chance of implantation
3. Sharing the results – Your medical provider will go over the results of the test, telling you which embryos have a higher chance of implantation, which have predispositions for genetic diseases, and which are boys and girls. You decide which ones you want to have implanted.
From there, you resume normal IVF procedures with an embryo transfer, a microscopic stork delivery of your chosen little boys or girls.
Considering IVF and PGD? Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind
When it comes to gender selection, it doesn’t get more cutting-edge than IVF and PGD. But before you start picking out wall colors or adding tutus to your baby shower registry, some factors to consider:
- Time and Probability – Fertility experts say it may take multiple rounds of IVF to achieve pregnancy. In fact, only 40-50% of IVF embryos become pregnancies. However, PGD may help those odds. The embryo screening process helps identify healthy embryos that are more likely to implant, increasing those implantation chances to 60-70%.
- Cost – Without help from your insurance provider, IVF and PGD can get expensive. A single IVF attempt (one round of ovulation induction, egg retrieval, intrauterine insemination, and embryo transfer) costs around $10,00-15,000. Add PGD to the mix and your total bill could be $20,000-25,000. And if the first round(s) of IVF isn’t successful, multiply that.
- Side Effects – Every surgery can be a little scary. The good news is that the outpatient procedures required for IVF have minimal risk and discomfort compared to more intensive surgeries. The flip side is that the medication taken to induce ovulation prior to egg retrieval can result in side effects such as:
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
Gender Selection Through Gender Swaying: Facts and Fiction
Gender selection using IVF and PGD is definitely a game-changer in the baby-making business. But can you pick the sex of your baby any other way?
As of now, scientists have found no evidence that any other gender selection method works.
Here are just a few gender swaying methods you may have heard of and why they’re not as scientifically sound as IVF with PGD.
- Shettles Method – Dr. Shettles believed that the key to unlocking gender selection was in knowing how to handle the sperm. Sperm cells are the deciding factor when it comes to an embryo’s gender. Essentially, sperm cells that carry an X gene (also called chromosome) produces girls, while sperm cells that carry a Y gene produces boys.
Shettles theorized that Y-carrying sperm thrived in alkaline environments—places in the body that aren’t acidic. On the other hand, X-carrying sperm liked things a little more acidic. Shettles claimed that you could encourage your chosen sperm to thrive through:
- Certain sexual positions of varying penetration depths
- Timing ejaculation before or after a woman’s orgasm
- Scheduling intercourse either right after menstruation or just before ovulation
Although Shettles said his methods were 75% accurate, scientists have proven his foundational theory to be false—X-carrying sperm and Y-carrying sperm aren’t so drastically different from each other. For more information on this subject, check out our blog on the Shettles method.
- Whelan Method – Public health researcher Elizabeth Whelan claimed that biochemical changes in a woman’s body through her menstrual cycle could impact whether X-carrying sperm or Y-carrying sperm survived in the womb to fertilize an egg.
This theory is very similar to the Shettles Method in that it’s based on the assumption that Y-carrying sperm and X-carrying sperm are different. Scientists have disproved both, indicating this gender swaying method is a bust.
- The Underwear Method – We know what you might be thinking, “What do underpants have to do with choosing a baby’s gender?” Well, it turns out, not much!
Some laboratory studies showed that X-carrying sperm cells—cells that turn an egg into a little girl—can survive higher temperatures than Y-carrying sperm. From there, gender-swaying enthusiasts derived that a man could wear briefs to keep his testicles, where sperm are produced, closer to his body and thus warmer. The goal? Cook off Y-carrying sperm using body heat, the way you would burn off alcohol in the making of vodka pasta!
The reality? The difference between an X-carrying sperm and a Y-carrying sperm’s heat resistance is so slight, thermal underwear, boxers, briefs, or commando don’t make much of a difference when it comes to what kind of sperm cells make it to the womb. The truth is all sperm are heat sensitive. So if you’re trying to get pregnant, briefs aren’t recommended for your partner. Briefs hold the testicles closer to the body, increasing heat and potentially reducing sperm count.
While there are many gender swaying methods out there, when it comes to reality, the only way to get cooking on gender selection is with IVF and PGD.
Whatever Method You Choose, Find Out Your Baby’s Gender Sooner with SneakPeek
However you choose to tip the scales one way or the other for your dream child, find your answers sooner with the SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test. Our 99.9% accurate test can detect your little one’s gender as early as 8 weeks into pregnancy!
What are you waiting for? Order a SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test and learn if you’re having a sweet little boy or girl sooner than ever.
If you’re still looking for information regarding your pregnancy process, read our blog discussing, What are the chances of having a boy vs girl? Follow the link to learn more!
American Pregnancy Association. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/infertility/preimplantation-genetic-diagnosis-70971/
Planned Parenthood. What is IVF? https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/fertility-treatments/what-ivf
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fertility Drugs and the Risk of Multiple Births. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/fertility-drugs-and-the-risk-of-multiple-births/
Parents. Gender Selection and IVF: What You Need to Know. https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/gender/selection/ivf-and-gender-selection-what-you-need-to-know/
Cleveland Clinic. Boy or Girl – Can You Choose Your Baby’s Gender? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/boy-or-girl-can-you-choose-your-babys-gender/
Web MD. IVF: Are 3 Embryos Too Many to Transfer? https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20120111/ivf-are-three-embryos-too-many-transfer
VeryWell Family. Boxers or Briefs: Do Briefs Lower Sperm Count? https://www.verywellfamily.com/do-briefs-lower-sperm-count-4584314#:~:text=Here’s%20a%20quick%20answer%3A%20Yes,still%20in%20the%20normal%20range.