Gender Selection: A Complete Guide & List Of Methods


Gender selection, also known as sex selection, is a procedure that’s quickly growing in popularity not just in the United States, but the entire world. If how to conceive a boy is common knowledge, why isn’t it more widely shared?

It’s not uncommon to hear about gender selection if you’re looking at how to conceive a boy or if you’ve heard about fertilization methods such as the Shettles Method, Artificial Insemination, and In-Vitro Fertilization.

That’s why I thought it relevant to put together this guide so we can all understand this procedure a bit better and be aware of what it entails.

First, let’s cover the basics!

What Is Gender Selection?

Gender selection is a procedure that allows parents to control the sex of their future child before conception. This can be done in a variety of ways, and we’ll discuss some of the most essential methods later on.

What’s The Science Behind Sex Selection?

To further understand gender selection it’s important that we get a grasp of the science behind it and how each parent’s genetic making work together to create an individual.

On the one hand, we have that women produce X chromosomes, which means that it’s the sperm that determines whether an embryo is male or female. If the sperm has an X chromosome, the resulting baby will be a girl, with XX chromosomes. If the sperm has a Y chromosome, the resulting baby will be a boy, with XY chromosomes.

Looking at gender selection from the viewpoint of medical professionals, the process is quite simple, but it’s indeed difficult to select the sex of your child without medical intervention.

How Does Gender Selection Work?

At the moment, there’s only one guaranteed method of sex selection that’s applied during fertility treatments, and that’s Preimplantation Genetic Screening, also known as PGS. This method is known to be 99.9% effective when it comes to gender selection.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening consists of providing treatment to help the woman grow up to 12 eggs, which are then extracted and fertilized in a lab. Once this process is completed, the embryo is incubated for 5 days so it can mature.

After this period, a biopsy is performed, and the samples are tested in a genetics lab to determine the embryo’s gender, their chromosome information, and overall health. Finally, the ideal embryo is chosen and placed in the womb through IVF or In-vitro Fertilization, something we’ll discuss in more detail later on.

Why Choose Gender Selection?

The reasons for gender or sex selection can be many. Individuals and couples around the world often choose their child’s gender because they merely have a preference one way or the other, or because of medical reasons.

It’s not ignored that many diseases are linked to sex chromosomes, so by selecting their offspring’s gender, some parents can avoid their child being affected by severe illnesses that can be passed down this way. These include hemophilia, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, among others.

Family Balancing

As for preference, the most common reason to give gender selection a try is what’s known as “family balancing,” which is when a family already has a child, say a girl, and they want a child of the opposite sex.

Social and cultural based reasons for gender selection are also prevalent around the world. In the West, couples who choose this option do so to practice family balancing.

In other parts of the world where overcrowding is an issue, such as China and India, and parents are forced to have only one child, gender selection is definitely something to think about. It’s worth mentioning that, in their culture, parents are actually pressured to conceive boys, which definitely has to do with the fact that women enjoy fewer rights than men in these societies.

In Vitro Fertilization

It’s important to note that gender selection is not a decision that’s made lightly in any case. On average, an IVF cycle that includes the PGS method can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $16,000. So, whatever the reason may be, this is a significant decision for the people involved.

The Ongoing Debate on Gender Selection

Even though gender selection is legal in the United States and it has provided the option for many people around the world, not everyone agrees with it.

People in favor of this procedure argue that it gives parents the option of creating the balanced household they seek and the opportunity of raising boys and girls, which are very different experiences.

For parents who are forced by society, culture, and familial pressure to choose the gender of their child, gender selection prevents abortion, infanticide, and abandonment.

On the other end of the debate, we have people that argue that gender selection done for non-medical reasons supports sexism, gender imbalance, racism, and overall intolerance.

Designer Babies

These people also argue against “designer babies,” their term, and they say that if parents are allowed to choose their offspring’s sex, soon they will be allowed to select other traits such as skin tone, hair color, eye color, etc.

It’s important to note that science is nowhere near the stage where parents would be able to select traits other than gender. And even if it were, it’s unlikely that ethical doctors would agree to that kind of pregnancy design.

The fact is that gender selection procedures are not even available for first-time parents. Or, I should say, most doctors don’t allow this in their clinics. They do agree to it for the purpose of family balancing or if there are fertility issues or genetic concerns. This means that gender selection is not something that’s done at the parents’ leisure.

How To Conceive a Boy or a Girl

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re considering gender selection for yourself. So before we go ahead and go through a few of the most common methods, let’s review the factors that may increase your chances of conceiving a boy or a girl.

Do keep in mind that these factors and scenarios are here for the sake of exploring the topic further. I’m not claiming they’re a sure-fire way to achieve gender selection without a procedure.

Parents are more likely to conceive a boy if they have sex on days where the woman is most fertile, which is the day before ovulation or the day of ovulation itself.

Artificial Insemination

Artificial Insemination also makes this more likely. Age may also have a role because younger men have a higher sperm count and younger women have more cervical fluid, both things that favor the conception of a boy. On the other hand, parents are more likely to conceive a girl is they have sex 4 to 2 days before ovulation.

A low sperm count may also favor the conception of girls. This is something that occurs naturally or due to factors such as drug abuse, for example.
It’s also thought that In-Vitro Fertilization favors female embryos because female sperm cells are more resilient to the stress of the procedure.

Methods of Gender Selection

Now that we’ve gone through all the basics and we have a better understanding of gender selection, in general, let’s take an in-depth look at the most common methods of gender selection and what they usually entail.

In-Vitro Fertilization or IVF

Like I mentioned above, In-Vitro Fertilization together with PGS is the number one scientifically-proven method of achieving the results you want out of gender selection.

Out of all the methods out there, IVF has proven to be the most accurate when it comes to predicting sex. The genetic testing method we’ve already discussed was discovered in the 90s in Europe as a way to prevent hereditary diseases, one of the common reasons for gender selection.

IVF is quite a complicated process, and it requires not only planning but dedication and continuous visits to the doctor.

In-Vitro Fertilization works by retrieving the eggs of the woman, which requires mild anesthesia, fertilizing the eggs, allowing them to mature, and then send them for testing. These tests are done in a lab, and the embryos are checked for abnormalities and for chromosomes to determine if they’re X or Y, female or male.

If the couple in question wants a boy or a girl, the eggs of the opposite sex are removed, and parents can start planning for the introduction of the embryo into the mother’s womb.

Now, the biggest drawback of this process is that even if the gender of the baby is 99.9% guaranteed, it’s not a guarantee that the IVF process will take and get the woman pregnant.

Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work for everyone and the older the woman is, the lower the procedure’s success rate. It can guarantee the gender of the offspring, it just doesn’t ensure pregnancy.

Considering how costly this procedure is, which ranges between $12,000 and $22,000, it’s definitely a big decision.

In 2012, according to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology, 61,000 babies were conceived via In-Vitro Fertilization, which is only 1.5% percent of the 3.9 million births that occurred that year in the United States.

It’s important to note that IVF and PGS won’t always be an option for first-time parents because most practitioners find it unacceptable to use these procedures solely for the purpose of gender selection. Meaning that gender selection via IVF and PGS is more an option for parents who want to either practice family balancing, which I’ve mentioned earlier, or parents who have fertility or genetic concerns.

Shettles Method

The Shettles method revolves around the woman’s ovulation cycle and the belief that male sperm cells are faster than female sperm cells. This method was developed by Landrum B. Shettles in the 60s, and it’s still widely considered to be effective.

When to Have Sex to Conceive a Boy or Girl

So, if a couple wants to have a girl, the best time for them to have intercourse is two to three days before the woman ovulates and hold off from it after that period is passed. According to the Shettles method, the male sperm cells will die first, and only the female ones will be around to fertilize the egg by the time ovulation comes.

How to Conceive a Boy

If a couple wants to conceive a boy, intercourse should happen at the height of the woman’s ovulation because male sperm cells will get to the egg faster than female sperm cells. The Shettles Method is hinged on a woman’s ovulation cycle and the belief that male sperm moves faster than female sperm.

The problem with this method is that it doesn’t increase your chances by much. Many proponents claim that the Shettles method is 15 to 90 percent effective, but it seems to be only a bit over 50% effective. Many medical experts argue that timing sexual intercourse with ovulation has little to no influence on the gender of your child. But on the other hand, there are also many studies that demonstrate this practice does lead to variations in gender ratio

The opinions are conflicting, to say the least, which is why numerous studies continue to be done on the subject of the Shettles Method and its effectiveness for gender selection. Hopefully, we’ll know a lot more about this in the future.

Artificial Insemination

Last but not least, we have Artificial Insemination, also known as AI. This procedure consists of deliberately introducing sperm into the female’s cervix or uterine cavity. The purpose here is to become pregnant through IVF without sexual intercourse.

Artificial Insemination is actually a fertility treatment that’s most popular among women who want to have children but may be single, in a lesbian relationship, or women who are in a relationship with a man who has fertility issues or physical impairments that make it impossible for him to conceive. How much does gender selection cost? It varies greatly depending on where you are in the world.

Artificial Insemination can be done through Intracervical Insemination or Intrauterine Insemination, the former being the most common one.F

As you can see, there’s quite a lot to be learned and understood about gender selection. For many people, this procedure is a real possibility, and the reasons always go beyond “baby design,” which is why we need to keep our minds open and move the conversation forward.