Did you know you can choose the sex of your baby? Chrissy Teigen did and the internet is flooded with opinions about whether or not it was the right or wrong thing to do.
On Wednesday, supermodel, TV host, author and wife of Grammy award winner John Legend received a lot of backlash when she posted a tweet about choosing the gender of her child. “the best father to a little girl,” she tweeted proudly, as one of the few people who was able to choose the sex of her child because she had access to more than one fertilized egg.
Before getting excited at the prospect or choosing to disagree with this particular option of choice, it’s important to consider what the process actually entails. Choosing your baby’s sex is not as simple as it sounds and it definitely contains some risks.
“In order to choose the gender of a child, a couple would need to go through in vitro fertilization,” says Dr. Karine Chung, fertility expert at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Basically the eggs would be harvested by a minor surgical procedure then fertilized in the laboratory. The embryo would grow several days in the laboratory and then undergo a biopsy whereby that tissue from the embryo could be analyzed for gender as well as other chromosomes.”
And unlike a lot of other tests, there is little no likelihood of error in the results. “What’s the point of going through all this, if the procedure isn’t accurate?” Chung says. “If you go through the pre-implantation genetic testing it’s nearly 100% accurate.”
Even though one can accurately determine the sex of their child, it doesn’t mean that there are other things that can go wrong. In general, the process of IVF lends itself to more possible complications for the parent and child. “In vitro fertilization carries potential theoretical risks in terms of the outcome of the baby,” says Chung. “There have been many studies done looking at babies born from in vitro fertilization and overall the babies are healthy but if you compare babies born from IVF compared to babies born that were spontaneously conceived the risk of that baby having a birth defect is about twice as high!”
More importantly, access to this type of technology is limited. “I’m not sure in Teigen’s case,” says Chung. “But right now, our field of medicine is governed by The American Society for Reproductive Medicine. We really try to limit access to this technology unless there’s a really specific medical reason to be selecting one gender over the other.”
One problem with this type of choice is that it can get out of hand, meaning that parents might want to start choosing their children’s eye color and other minor features. “I really think that’s just asking too much,” says Chung. “Although the potential technology for this in the near future isn’t completely intangible this is just something that won’t sit well with physicians.”
The best case scenario according to Chung, is when a couple conceive in a spontaneous way. If they need help having a child, that is understandable. But the ideal would be to use medicine as little as possible and to put the health and wellness of your child first.