THURSDAY, March 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Four out of 10 women being treated for infertility said they would choose the gender of their next baby if they were given the option, according to a new study.
Researchers note, however, that given the choice, childless women would choose baby girls and boys in about equal numbers.
"We found that 41 percent of patients surveyed would use pre-implantation sex selection if it were offered to them at no cost," lead author Dr. Tarun Jain, an assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a prepared statement.
He noted that two techniques currently available in the United States -- sperm separation and preimplantation genetic diagnosis -- make it possible now to select a baby's gender. But these procedures are normally limited to prevention of gender-linked genetic disorders in children.
Reporting in the March issue of Fertility and Sterility, Jain and and his colleagues surveyed 561 women at a hospital-based infertility clinic. About 41 percent (229) said they'd want to select the gender of their future child. Among those who said they'd like to make that kind of choice, 45 percent were childless, while 48 percent had children all of the same sex.
Half of the women who favored no-cost sex selection said they would still like to choose the sex of their next child even if they had to pay for it. Women from non-white racial groups had a stronger preference for sex selection than white women, the study said.
"Sex selection is a topic that's almost taboo for physicians to talk about. Yet it's important to understand patient interest in nonmedical sex selection and adequately address the ethical and social implications before the cat is out of the bag," Jain said.
"Prior to this study, there has been no data to indicate what the demand might be," he said.
Sex selection has been banned in the United Kingdom and it's been identified as a topic of concern by the President's Commission on Bioethics in the United States. Sex selection for nonmedical reasons is opposed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
Under certain conditions, nonmedical sex selection is acceptable, says the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
"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," Jain said.
The National Women's Health Information Center has more about infertility.