Live

Watch CBSN Live

Gender Selection: Fact Or Fiction?

Thanks to the miracle of modern science, a growing number of parents now have the ability to choose the gender of a child before conception.

But some Moms and Dads are trying to accomplish that without ever seeing a doctor.

If you're considering any of these methods, CBS News' Susan McGinnis reports on what the critics have to say.

Jennifer Thompson already had a son, but she yearned for a daughter. So, she bought and read a book: "How to Choose the Sex of your Baby."

She says, "You have to track your cycle every month, figure out when you are ovulating, and then try and time intercourse to a few days before your ovulation time to conceive a girl, and it's real tricky."

She also followed other popular advice about a "girl friendly" diet, eating foods like eggs and yogurt. The result? A second boy.

Dr. Alan Copperman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan says, "Sugar and spice and everything nice makes a girl? No. There's no truth to that whatsoever. That's a nice, old fable."

He further states, "The timing of intercourse to ovulation, presence or absence of female orgasm, your horoscope, none of this really makes a difference."

But gender selection Web sites, books, and kits flooding the marketplace are claiming otherwise.

Dr. Copperman says, "It turns out that none of these are any better than 50-50."

He is skeptical of gender selection kits -now for sale on the Internet- like a $200 kit by "GenSelect," which claims that using its ovulation predictors, vaginal douche, vitamin supplements, and eating certain foods will increase your chances of having a boy or girl.

Dr. Copperman notes, "There are a lot better ways to spend their money."

Though the kit is advertised as including "FDA Approved Components," it's not actually approved to select gender.

"I worry about anything that's not FDA-Approved,' Dr. Copperman says, "that somebody has never published in a scientific journal, then it doesn't have any scientific merit."

But GenSelect stands by its product.

Jill Sweazy, co-founder of GenSelect says, "We were just granted our United States patent. They don't grant patents to snake oil."

Yet another kit parents are purchasing online is "The BioTranz Semen Shipper," available through "The Andrology Institute of America's" Web site.

Dr. Zavos, who runs the company, claims it will transport a man's semen to a lab, separate X and Y sperm, and ship it back for self-insemination.

The company's supposed success rates is 80 percent for male selection and 72 percent for females.

But Dr. Copperman points out, "By chance alone, we're going to have a 50-50 chance of having a boy or girl, so a technology that increased that to 70 percent, even theoretically, is not a home-run technology. He's got different ways of sorting the sperm. He wasn't specific on the Web site and he's not published in any scientific journals, which is part of the problem."

When we asked Dr. Zavos if he has any independent published studies supporting his claims, he released this statement: "We are testing it now, putting a paper together for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine for November. We are doing research and we are backing up our numbers."

But with so many methods under criticism by experts, is there anything that works? Many fertility specialists say there are really only two procedures worth your money, both happen in a doctors office and neither comes cheap.

Jennifer Thompson believes she finally got the daughter she wanted thanks to MicroSort.

She says, "I love having a daughter, even though it doesn't lessen my love for my boys."

For $2,300 MicroSort is available at the Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Va.

Dr. Keith Blauer of MicroSort explains how it works, "A man would give us a sample; we would then use a machine called flocytometer and separate the sample based on the DNA of the sperm."

The company's success rate, 91 percent for a girl and 76 percent for a boy, have been proven in 430 births so far. But it's still in clinical trials."

For now, most experts agree, the best chances come from a procedure called PGD -- Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis.

PGD involves fertilizing eggs in a lab, extracting a cell from the embryos, determining the gender, and implanting only the desired sex.

Originally created to prevent the passage of genetic diseases, it is now used by some for "family balancing."

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg of The Fertility Institutes says, "In the last two years, since we offered gender selection, we've seen a huge onslaught of people."

PGD is 99.9 percent successful, but success comes at a price: more than $10 thousand per try.

Bottom line, it's up to parents to decide if gender selection is worth the financial and emotional risk.

Many fertility specialists and parents have ethical issues with gender selection.

Dr. Copperman says, "Just because we have the technology doesn't mean we should be using it."

Some critics worry that society may get to the point one day where parents actually create "designer babies." Many parents already are asking gender selection companies (Microsort) that their babies have such things as blue eyes or blond hair.

View CBS News In