I knew that in many cultures, it’s considered highly preferable to have boy babies. I knew that, regardless of culture, there are parents who really hope they’ll have a girl, or a boy, for whatever reason.
What I didn’t know is exactly how far some people are willing to go to improve their chances of selecting their babies’ sex.
According to an investigative article released today on Slate, sex selection is a multi-million dollar industry in the U.S. Hopeful couples from other countries even travel to U.S. clinics for procedures, because most other countries have prohibited prenatal sex selection unless it’s for medical reasons (such as a genetic predisposition to a disease only affecting boys, for example).
The procedure used to select a baby’s sex is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD); scientists developed it to screen embryos for chromosome-linked diseases. The procedure is akin to in vitro fertilization, except that before the embryo is implanted, one single cell is removed and tested. How delicate a procedure is this? It’s done so early, that only eight cells exist. The other seven cells will go on to develop normally if that embryo is chosen for implantation in the client’s uterus.
There aren’t a lot of statistics available on prenatal sex selection, which is largely unregulated in the U.S. Slate cited a 2009 study published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online which found that people of Chinese or Indian descent usually choose boys, and 80 percent of Caucasian parents choose girls when choosing their babies’ sex. What that means is that there’s a lot of U.S. couples going through expensive, invasive treatments in the hopes of having a girl.
Google Adwords, a search tool for frequently-Googled phrases, shows that “how to have a boy” is searched about 450,000 times a month. “How to have a girl” is searched 1,220,000 a month.
The Slate report says that the average cost of prenatal sex selection at a high-profile fertility clinic is $18,000. Slate writer Jasmeet Sidhu interviewed one mom who said “I lay in bed and cried for weeks” after finding out that her third baby was to be her third son.
$40,000 later, that woman has a daughter.
“My husband and I stared at our daughter for that first year,” she said. “She was worth every cent. Better than a new car, or a kitchen reno.”
Which is the first time I’ve heard babies being compared to kitchen renovations, but whatever.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around all this, but that may be because I didn’t have a lot of dreams one way or the other about which sex my children would be. With each of our kids, we were truly excited to have a healthy baby. After having three girls first, it’s fun having a boy, but it’s not like we were having a fourth baby in the hopes that maybe this time we’d have a boy.
I also assumed that I could bake with a son, and change a car battery with a daughter. And on that count, at least, I was right: my three daughters and one son are all equally likely to help me in the kitchen as in the yard.
It seems like an awful lot of pressure to put on a kid, pinning that many hopes and dreams on having a girl–and expecting that girl to be a certain type of girl.
Author Jennifer Merrill Thompson, was quoted in the Slate article as saying she used sex-selection technology to conceive her daughter because “I’m not into sports. I’m not into violent games. I’m not into a lot of things boys represent and boys do.”
I’m not sure what she’s planning on doing if it turns out her daughter is into basketball and rugby. I mean, it’s not like you can just go to Babies R Us and exchange your tomboy for a girly-girl.
I know I’ve heard friends of mine say that they’re “kind of hoping” for a girl or boy, for whatever reason. All of them were thrilled with whatever they ended up having. One of my friends, who was admittedly worried that she didn’t honestly “know what to do with a boy” couldn’t imagine having had anything other than her son, from the moment he was born.
There’s a pretty big leap from “kind of hoping” to investing $18 grand, $40 grand, or more in the hopes of making the choice, though. How badly did you want a girl or boy? Is prenatal sex selection a classic example of First World Problems gone amok, or could you see yourself doing this?
(Photo Credit: Flickr/Stacy Rackley)
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