Forums  Gender Selection Gender Prediction Gender Disappointment Gender Odds

Sperm Spinning for Gender Selection:
The Ericsson Albumin Method

The Ericsson method was pioneered and patented by Dr. Ronald Ericsson, and has been in use since the mid-1970s. Although Dr. Ericsson maintains that his method has a significant success rate, experts question the effectiveness of the procedure.

Ericsson Albumin Method Overview

To use the Ericsson method, the father provides a semen sample at a licensed Ericsson clinic. The sample is processed for gender selection, and then used to inseminate the mother. The procedure takes about 4 hours, and is done on the same day that the mother is expected to ovulate. She is inseminated by a simple IUI (intra-uterine insemination) or ICI (intra-cervical insemination). For gender selection for a girl, the mother also takes clomiphene citrate (CC, brand name Clomid).
  • COST: $600 to $1,200 per attempt.
    The cost is inexpensive compared to MicroSort, but usually more than other "sperm spinning" methods because of the licensing fee clinics must pay to use the procedure. The fee seems to include sperm separation for gender selection as well as insemination, but this will vary by clinic. Most couples will require multiple attempts to get pregnant.
  • SUCCESS RATE: 78% to 85% for boys, 73% to 75% for girls.
    These are the success rates claimed by Dr. Ericsson; although many still doubt the method's effectiveness, some medical studies have shown good results.

    In the Gender Selection Survey, only 9 results for Ericsson are available. Of those hoping for a girl, 5 of 6 succeeded. 1 of 3 hoping for a boy were successful.

  • AVAILABILITY: Widely available; see www.childselect.com.
    48 clinics have licensed the Ericsson method, about half in the U.S. and the others abroad, making this method far more available than MicroSort.

    Inexplicably, the Ericsson method seems to be available in several countries where other sex selection procedures have been outlawed, such as in India, where a strong preference for sons has already caused a sex ratio imbalance, and in the designer-baby-phobic United Kingdom.

  • SAFETY: The Ericsson method is deemed to be safe.
    At least I can find no references questioning its safety. Sperm preparation with albumin, without gender selection, is a standard procedure before IUI or IVF, and has been used for nearly 3 decades.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: Most fertility experts dismiss this method as ineffective.
    Repeated medical studies using reliable sperm testing methods have shown that the Ericsson method does not alter the X:Y ratio of sperm as originally claimed. After the procedure, the sperm is still 50/50 male/female sperm.

    In one incident I am personally aware of, a woman used the Ericsson method before PGD, so that the gender of the embryos could be positively determined. Of 4 embryos, 2 were male and 2 were female: a 50/50 outcome.

    One mother of three boys who tried Ericsson for a girl conceived twin boys, and her story was recounted in the New York Times.

    Because this method is patented, independent results to confirm the claimed success rate are hard to obtain. It's unclear whether Dr. Ericsson is even able to get accurate reports from centers licensed to perform his procedure; he admits that obtaining results from these centers "is like pulling hen's teeth".

Gametrics, LTD

The Ericsson method is licensed through a company founded by Dr. Ronald Ericsson, Gametrics, LTD. Only fertility clinics who pay the licensing fee may claim to perform the Ericsson method by name; so any clinic offering "sperm spinning" or other gender selection methods without specifically mentioning Ericsson is NOT using this method.

The company's web site at www.childselect.com, is curiously devoid of nearly any useful information at all, except for clinic locations. The site refers in large text to "22+X/Y", but offers no hint as to what it might mean. A new gender selection method? A new term for the old method? A reference to the human genome, or part of the Da Vinci Code?

Dr. Ericsson, now 79, reportedly lives on a ranch in the Black Hills of Wyoming. He has collaborated on several published medical studies with Dr. Scott Ericsson, of Sul Ross University in Texas.

Articles

Sperm Spinning Confusion

As you'll see from the medical studies below, if in fact the Ericsson method works, no one knows how. Experiments using the Ericsson method have shown that it does not create X or Y-enriched sperm samples; the results remain 50/50. In fact, once a reliable method for detecting the X:Y sperm ratio became available, a published study disproving the Ericsson method became a yearly event: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998. Even studies showing success in actual birth rates when using the Ericsson method have been questioned, because not all pregnancies at these clinics are monitored; there also does not seem to be a study independent of the clinics commercially practicing this method.

But could be that the Ericsson method really works, just not by the intended mechanism? Is it possible that sperm of one gender are somehow given a functional advantage, or the other gender somehow inactivated or incapacitated?

You will have to judge for yourself. Although it is common enough for a medical procedure to have an unintended consequence -- and sometimes an unforseen side effect is even beneficial -- is it too farfetched that a method designed to alter the X:Y ratio of sperm, yet doesn't, somehow accidentally delivers the desired gender?

Sperm Preparation by the Ericsson Albumin Method

The Ericsson method is based on the assumption that Y-sperm swim faster than X-sperm. Sperm are placed in a test tube atop a "column" of increasingly thicker layers of albumin, and allowed to swim down into the solution. After a certain time period has elapsed, only the fastest sperm should have been able to penetrate to the bottom layer. Here is the procedure as described by Dr. Scott Ericsson in one study: Ericsson method for gender selection
  • Human serum albumin (HSA), a sticky protein solution, is layered into a column of increasing thickness, here of 7.5% and 17.5%. (Note: This figure is for illustration only, I don't know what color albumin really is.)
  • After the semen is centrifuged, washed, and diluted, it is layered on top of the albumin column.
  • The column is allowed to stand for 1 hour, allowing sperm to penetrate the albumin. (Although the semen is processed in a centrifuge during the procedure, it is this step -- allowing the sperm to swim through the albumin column -- that it intended to separate X and Y sperm, rather than the spinning.)
  • The top layer is discarded, and the column is allowed to stand for another 30 minutes.
  • The next layer (originally the middle layer) is discarded.
  • The remainding bottom layer is centrifuged, and of this only the pellet (sediment at the bottom) is retained and prepared for artificial insemination.
According to some accounts, the same procedure is used both for male and female gender selection, except that for a girl the mother also takes the fertility drug Clomid.

Published Medical Studies on the Ericsson Method

Female sex selection using clomiphene citrate and albumin separation of human sperm
May-2002, Human Reproduction
Study authors include Dr. Scott Ericsson
Critics have claimed the Ericsson method for female gender selection either doesn't work at all, or only works due to the use of Clomid. The study analyzed 226 births from 5 Ericsson clinics and found it to be 71% effective, compared to 52% female births for those using Clomid alone, and 49% female births in the general population.
  • Use of the Ericsson method for female gender selection in 5 clinics resulted in 184 single and 42 twin births. Albumin sperm separation plus the ovulation inducing drug clomiphene citrate (CC, trade name Clomid) were used. Of these, 71% of the combined single and twin births were females.
  • This group was compared to results from the 1985 study The sex ratio of infants born after hormonal induction of ovulation, which showed 52% female births when clomiphene citrate was used.
  • "The skewing of the sex ratio in favour of females by all centres illustrates that this procedure can be used successfully by different clinicians for female sex preselection."
Experiences in Hong Kong with the theory and practice of the albumin column method of sperm separation for sex selection
Jan-1998, Human Reproduction (Hong Kong)
The Ericsson albumin method was found to be 80% effective for male gender selection in 18 pregnancies -- even though sperm testing showed that the X:Y ratio was unchanged after the procedure.
  • The Ericsson albumin method was used for Y-sperm separation at the Gender Choice Center in Hong Kong, resulting in 30 pregnancies to mothers wanting boys. Results for 18 of the pregnancies are reported.
  • The X:Y ratio was verified using fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH), and was found to remain 1:1 after separation.
  • Despite showing no increase in the Y-sperm ration, results of the 18 births show that 83% of the couples had a boy, and 80% of all babies born were boys:
    13 -- single boy
    1 -- twin boys
    1 -- boy/girl twins
    3 -- single girl
  • "This study confirmed that the [Ericsson] sperm separation method can bias the number of babies in favour of males. However, the theory that it does so by enriching the sperm samples with Y-bearing spermatozoa appears to be incorrect and some other theory has to be postulated. It is tentatively proposed that passage through the HSA inactivates X-bearing spermatozoa more than Y-bearing spermatozoa, even though this is not apparent simply on inspection of sperm motility."
  • [What about the other 12 pregnancies? Only 60% of the outcomes are reported here.]
Efficiency of sex pre-selection of spermatozoa by albumin separation method
Sep-1997, Human Reproduction (Taiwan)
Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
  • The Ericsson 2-layer and 3-layer albumin separation method was used on 21 semen samples from healthy males.
  • 7 patients already had 2 or more sons, another 7 had 2 or more daughters, and the other seven had no children because of infertile wives.
  • X:Y sperm ratios were verified by double-label fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH)
  • Before separation, X:Y ratios were 1:1.
  • After separation, X-sperm had increased, and Y-sperm had decreased, by 1.4% to 3.5%.
Albumin gradients do not enrich Y-bearing human spermatozoa
May-1997, Human Reproduction (Australia)
Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
  • Y-sperm separated samples from a licensed Ericsson center were evaluated by an independent laboratory.
  • X:Y ratios were verified by double-label fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH).
  • The resulting X:Y ratios were found to be essentially 1:1, although some samples had slightly more X-sperm or Y-sperm.
  • "The clinical use of albumin gradients for male sex preselection should be reconsidered in the light of this and other evidence."
Determination of the ratio of X and Y bearing spermatozoa after albumin gradient method
Dec-1996, Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand
Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
  • The Ericsson method was used for Y-sperm separation of 15 semen samples.
  • The X:Y ratio of the samples was determined using the double-label FISH method.
  • Percentage of Y-sperm was found to be 50% before separation, and 51% after separation.
Evaluation of human Y-bearing spermatozoa separated by albumin density gradients
Feb-1995, Fertility & Sterility
Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
  • The Ericsson albumin method was used to separate Y-sperm
  • X:Y ratio of sperm was verified by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH)
  • Ratio of Y-sperm was found to be slightly increased by an amount that was considered statistically significant, but not enough to be useful for male gender selection.
  • Assessment of the separation of X- and Y-bearing sperm on albumin gradients
    Apr-1994, Fertility & Sterility (Australia)
    Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
    • Method: 2-layer and 3-layer discontinuous albumin gradients were used to separate X-sperm and Y-sperm from healthy, normal semen samples.
    • Test: chromosome-specific DNA probes and double-label fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)
    • Outcome: Before separation, the X:Y ratio was 1:1. After separation for X-sperm, a slight increase in X-sperm was observed. However, after separation for Y-sperm, no increase in Y-sperm was observed.
    Sephadex filtration and human serum albumin gradients do not select spermatozoa by sex chromosome
    Oct-1993, Human Reproduction (Spain)
    Semen samples tested after using the Ericsson method, or after Sephadex gel filtration, still had an X:Y ratio of 1:1.
    • Sperm separation was performed using Sephadex gel filtration and albumin gradients.
    • X:Y ratio was verified by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH).
    • Before separation, Y-sperm were found to be 49.3%. Sephadex filtration yielded 52.5% Y-sperm, and albumin separation resulted in 49.4% Y-sperm.
    • "No real enrichment for X- or Y-bearing spermatozoa was detected."
    Sex preselection through albumin separation of sperm
    Feb-1993, Fertility & Sterility
    Authors include Dr. Ronald Ericsson
    Ericsson clinics report 71%-76% success in gender selection for a boy, and 69% for a girl.
    • 1407 births resulting from the use of the Ericsson method at 59 U.S. clinics and at 8 in other countries.
    • The albumin separation method was used; mothers desiring a girl also were treated with clomiphene citrate (Clomid).
    • 71% to 76% success was reported for those hoping to conceive a boy, depending on which protocol was used, and 69% for a girl.
    Couples with exclusively female offspring have an increased probability of a male child after using male sex preselection
    1992, Human Reproduction
    By Scott Ericsson and Ronald Ericsson
    Study reported that the Ericsson method for male gender selection was 73% to 86% effective for parents who previously had daughters only. This was compared to 50.1% odds of having a son for parents in the general population with one daughter and no sons.
    A controlled study for gender selection
    Aug-1991, Fetrility & Sterility
    • Use of the albumin density gradient separation method for 48 couples desiring gender selection was compared to a control group. The control group had also requested gender selection, but became pregnant before any treatment.
    • In the group using the albumin method, couples hoping to conceive a girl also used clomiphene citrate (Clomid).
    • Of those hoping for a boy: 57% of those using the albumin method, and 61% in the control group, had a boy.
    • Of those hoping for a girl: 79% of those using the albumin method, and 35% of the control group, had a girl.
    • [The study abstract doesn't explain the wildly skewed ratios in the control groups, which should have been close to 50/50 instead of 61/39 and 65/35; such an unusually high ratio of boys in the controls makes me doubt the whole study.]
    Sex selection by sperm separation and insemination
    Nov-1984, Fertility & Sterility
    • The Ericsson albumin method was used for Y-sperm separation, resulting in 35 conceptions, of which 28 were boys (80%).
    • The Sephadex gel filtration method was used for X-sperm separation, resulting in 11 conceptions, 8 of which were girls (72%).
    Gender after artificial induction of ovulation and artificial insemination
    Oct-1983, Fertility & Sterility
    Of women using clomiphene citrate (Clomid), of 89 singleton births, 54% were female.
    Use of albumin gradients for X and Y sperm separation and clinical experience with male sex preselection
    Jan-1979, Fertility & Sterility
    • Using the albumin method, 6 of 8 (75%) pregnancies resulted in boys.