"The Family Man"
An upcoming 3-part miniseries on UK television features a fertility expert facing ethical dilemmas in the world of IVF. One story line concerns parents of 3 daughters, who are devastated after the death of their son and want to use sex selection to conceive a boy -- against the law.
The story comes direct from the UK headlines. The Mastersons had four sons and one daughter, who died tragically as a toddler in a bonfire accident. The Mastersons unsuccessfully battled the UK government to be allowed to use sex selection to have a girl. Finally, the couple went abroad for several attempts with IVF/PGD, but failed to become pregnant. At last, they were forced to give up their dream of having daughter in their family once more. (See my previous blog posts for the Masterson's story.)
Even if choosing your baby's sex were as easy as taking a pink or blue
pill, most Americans would prefer to leave it up to chance, according
to a new study.
One of the main concerns usually mentioned by opponents of
preconception gender selection is the possibility of upsetting the
birth ratio -- usually under the assumption that since boys are
preferred, too few girls would be born. This is the current
situation in China and India, where a cultural bias for sons is so
strong that the birth of a daughter is always considered "bad news".
The study's authors point out that whether widely available gender
selection could cause a sex ratio imbalance in the US "cannot be
answered by intuition, but only by evidence," which is now provided in
a survey of nearly 1,200 Americans. Here are the survey results (paraphrased by me).
If you could choose the gender of your first child, what would you choose?
39% Boy, 19% Girl, 42% Don't Care
This question shows a strong preference for a son as the first born. Because some studies on birth order have shown firstborns are higher-achieving (more likely to go to college than siblings, for example), some opponents of gender selection have argued that this preference could result in a "nation of little sisters".
However, although the survey results show this preference to be widespread, we don't know whether it is a mild or a strong preference. Is the desire for a firstborn son strong enough to result in the use of assisted gender selection, or is it merely strong enough to affect a survey response? Is it a passionate wish or simply a pleasant image of a big brother watching out for little sister?
As we'll see in following questions, even though Americans may express a gender preference, few are willing to take any action to fulfill that preference.
If you would like to have more than one child, what would you like your children's gender to be?
50% Equal boys and girls
5% Boys only
7% More boys than girls
4% Girls only
6% More girls than boys
27% No preference
Half want the same number of girls and boys, while nearly 1/4
preferred one gender over the other. But those with a preference were
almost evenly split in preferring a boy or a girl, with 12% wanting
only boys or more boys, and 10% preferring only girls or more girls.
Overall, 73% did express a preference for their children's gender,
but again, few of them would be willing
to interfere with nature to fulfill that preference.
Would you be willing to use artificial insemination to choose your
baby's sex, if it cost $2,500 per attempt and 3 to 5 attempts would be
8% Yes, 73% No, 18% Unsure
The majority would be unwilling to choose their baby's gender if it
involved going to a fertility center, and undergoing 3 to 5 cycles of
artificial insemination at a cost of $2,500 per attempt.
Only 8% were willing to use gender selection under these conditions.
Although this is an excellent question for survey purposes, it probably
paints a far too optimistic picture of the true state of gender
selection technology, because it implies that you're guaranteed
the gender of your choice if you're willing to spend a maximum $7,500
on 5 attempts. The truth is, it's likely to cost far more and there's
no guarantee you'll get pregnant -- and there's still a chance of
having the opposite gender in the end.
Would you be willing to use artificial insemination to choose your baby's sex, if it required only one procedure in your doctor's office and was covered by your health insurance?
12% Yes, 64% No, 24% Undecided
Even if gender selection involved only one doctor's visit, only 12% would be willing to take advantage of it. This seems to indicate that for most people, the unwillingness to use assisted medical gender selection is not due to its cost or inconvenience.
If you could choose your baby's sex by taking a pink pill or a blue pill, would you?
18% Yes, 59% No, 22% Undecided
And finally, even if gender selection required virtually no effort at all, only 18% would be willing to take any action to interfere with nature to ensure the gender of their choice, with the majority preferring to leave it up to chance.
The conclusion? Even if there were a gender selection clinic on every corner in the US, most Americans prefer to leave their baby's gender up to chance. And of those who would like to choose, about half would choose a boy and half would choose a girl. There seems to be little threat to the US sex ratio as the result of assisted gender selection.
It's a learning and adaptation processes for all of us, including myself, including all the women out there.
Dr. C.N. Wang, Acu-Gen Scientific Director
I wonder if any of the women who bought the Baby Gender Mentor test realized they were signing up for a "learning and adaptation process". Acu-Gen claims to have already conducted a study of 20,000 women over 14 years.
Feeling disappointed in the gender of your baby, although common, is "rarely talked about, is discussed in a ‘cone of silence’ (if at all) and those who have feelings of gender disappointment are usually desperate to find people whom they can trust, to talk about the strong, real emotions they experience." An article on Australia's BellyBelly discusses causes and emotions in gender disappointment.
“When I found out Joshua was a boy at the ultrasound I was disappointed – disappointed and he was healthy and growing beautifully! How could I even think it?? I have hated myself for that. I look at him now and I just love him so much, how could I ever have been disappointed? I would lie to people, pretending to be so excited that I was going to have two little boys when in fact I had hope that the ultrasound was wrong. I would put on my happy face and say, “I always wanted two little boys!” or “As long as it is healthy we don’t care what it is.” Imagine if I had said, “Well I really was hoping for a girl and I am disappointed that it’s not, but I guess I will learn to deal with it.’ What sort of a mother thinks like this?”
See also my Gender Disappointment
page with links to other articles and forums about feelings of being disappointment with your baby's gender.
Blogger Jennifer Creer is happy to put the job of baby-raising behind her after having three sons ("Oy vey! The work!"). But she wonders, "is it just that I am now married that people ask if I am going to have a baby, or am I really missing out by not having a daughter?"
As one comment put it, having all boys is just fine; "Kids aren't like Pokemon, no need for me to 'collect em all!'"
How do you feel about it?
A poll asks parents whether they were interested in learning their baby's gender early using a test like the Baby Gender Mentor. The clear majority answered "Yes, just for curiosity and planning," while 25% held out with "No, we want the surprise." A few claimed that based on the test results, they might consider aborting and trying for the other gender.
Dr. Edgar Dahl, bioethicist and senior research fellow at the
medical centre of Geissen University, Germany, argues that sex
selection should be permitted in the UK. Based on his extensive
research on gender preference among parents in many countries, Dahl
refutes the common misconception that gender selection could lead to a
sex ratio imbalance. He cites a survey which found that the
majority of British couples would like to have an equal number of boys
and girls, and the remaining couples didn't have any gender preference.
It is simply untrue that all people who would like to choose the
gender of their children are motivated by the sexist belief that one
sex is more valuable than the other.
If your children are all boys or all girls, you may have wondered why you’re more likely to conceive one gender instead of the other, or whether it’s all just up to chance. Read on to find out the answers to these questions about the likelihood of having only sons or daughters:
- Can some men father only girls because they produce only X sperm, or only boys because they have only Y sperm?
- If you already have two or more children of the same gender, are the odds stacked that your next baby will also be the same gender?
- What are the statistical odds of having four, five, six, or even more boys or girls in a row?
Read the article
Happy 1st birthday to Coco! She's the daughter of celebrities
Courtney Cox and David Arquette, conceived with IVF after Courtney had
repeated miscarriages. After her birth, Courtney suffered from PPD
(post-partum depression) and self-destructive feelings. But she hopes
to have another baby, saying, "We've got
to try for a boy. We've got to have a little (boy) Arquette in the
Best wishes to you, Courtney and David, on getting your little boy!
I've always supposed that celebrities are lurking among us in the
Gender Selection forums, because the longing for the "missing gender"
must strike them as deeply as it does we legions of "regular" women --
and they have more resources to pursue it than most of the rest of us.
Y'all are welcome here too. ;-)
561 women being treated for infertility in Chicago responded to a
questionnaire about gender selection. 40% of those women said that they
would like to choose their baby's sex, if it was free. Of those, half
would still want to choose their baby's sex at an additional cost. What
gender did they want? 61% said they would choose a girl.
"One of the fears is that sex selection will drive patients toward a
certain sex. And the presumption is a preference for boys.
But our study did not show that. In fact, in patients who did not have
children there was no greater desire for boys over girls," says Dr.
Tarun Jain, one of the study's authors.
Would you like to choose the sex of your baby, at no extra cost?
41% - Yes
Of those who answered yes,
46% had no previous children
48% had all boys or all girls
6% had at least a boy and a girl
Of those who answered yes, would you be willing to pay extra to choose the sex of your baby?
About 50% - Yes
What method of gender selection would you choose?
55% - Sperm separation
41% - PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis)
4% - Neither
The assumption that gender selection would mostly be used to choose
boys, perhaps upsetting the gender balance, is often used as an
argument against it. This study is yet another bit of evidence that
there is no basis for this assumption, because parents prefer girls just as much as boys
; Western countries simply do not share the much publicized son preference seen in Asia.
The oft-repeated factoid that most parents would want a boy as a firstborn is refuted here as well.