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Designer babys or planned child: Can it be a girl too?

A question that is unfortunately really asked in many countries. Girl or boy is no longer down to chance: The laboratory can alter the script. Even when chance is definitely the better director.

The laboratory can take charge according to the wishes of nascent parents
Picture by T. Micke

"The main concern is that the child is healthy", reply the majority of parents to be when asked the question whether they would rather have a boy or a girl. And many do not let the surprise be revealed by the doctor, who finds out what the couple will have through the ultrasound scan carried out during pregnancy.

In some countries like China or India the customs are different. In China it is such that due to the population explosion in the realm of the Middle Ages, with few exceptions each family is only allowed one child. And according to tradition it should be a boy, a "son and heir", something that used to lead to children disappearing and murders. Nowadays there are hundreds of thousands of abortions. A horrific practice for which China’s government still has no solution and is therefore confronted with a superior number of young men who cannot find a wife.

The topic of "son and heir" was even a decisive factor in Europe for thousands of years. The philosopher Anaxagoras supposed in 450 B.C. that the right testicle of a man causes a boy, the left a girl. Consequently in the Middle Ages many men absurdly bound their left testicle before sexual intercourse, French peers detached it completely. And a method from the 18th century suggested new tricks, for example the man should lie on the left side of the woman during sex, if male offspring were desired.

Are children happier, if the parents have helped design them?
Picture by T. Micke

These are times gone by, but the wish of many parents to take action still remains, for example when three boys already romp around the house and the next one should then be a girl. The most modern laboratory technique is meanwhile so advanced that it can separate the mans sperm, which colourfully mixed carry half female and half male DNA, through special centrifuges, magnets and weak electric fields. In this way capitalise on the fact that the male Y-chromosome is smaller and lighter than the X-chromosome. The method is however not one hundert percent fullproof.

Specific rekuests for children are today only able to be definitely fulfilled through artificial fertilisation in the laboratory through "pre-implantation diagnostics", which is forbidden in our country, as female doctor Dr. Walter Sacher describes: "A cell is offset from the first dividing cells of the adolescent life and then examined. On the basis of the chromosome pairs, from which comes one from the father and one from the mother, it can not only be determined whether it will be a girl or a boy, but also whether the child is healthy or not - whether for instance a so-called ‘trisomy’ dominates the chromosome 21, which leads to Down-Syndrome (Mongolismus). If something is not right, the embryo is simply not implanted in the woman and another fertilised egg cell is taken."

Reproduction doctor Prof. Wilfried Feichtinger: "Many Indians travel specifically to England for this method. Patients in Austria who want such a Designer Baby have to travel abroad, because there artificial fertilisation is only allowed if you are infertile and this examination of the Invitro-Embryo is only permitted in order to ascertain whether what is found out from the first 11 chromosome pairs is viable."

How little scientists really know about which factors influence the sex of a baby is described by Prof. Feichtinger in his book "Die Wunschkinddiät" ("The Designer Baby Diet"), unfortunately out of print. Next to all the possible tricks, such as conception before or after the release of the egg, which attain only dubious results, it appears possible according to practical studies to shift the probability of a girl or boy from 50:50 to 80:20 through special nutrition. Prof. Feichtinger: "In simple terms: if a couple want a girl, the future mother should avoid salty food before conception, stick rather to pastry confections and take lots of calcium and magnesium. The desire for a boy is fulfilled if the woman is rich in salt, which means taking lots of sodium and potassium. A doctor should always be consulted with regards to this."

If it is then a boy instead of a girl then at least Mother Nature has reigned and not the laboratory. Luckily you can exchange the pink sleeper...

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© A report by Tobias Micke (15-05-05) – Contact