Choosing the sex of the baby for non-therapeutic reasons in assisted reproductive treatments is not permitted by Spanish law
In Spain people will continue to ask pregnant mothers the usual question “Is it a girl or a boy?”.
Before initiating assisted reproductive treatment, some couples consider the issue of choosing the sex of the baby. Some people prefer a boy and others a girl. In most cases the reasons are personal and do not respond to therapeutic reasons.
In this situation, the Spanish legislation – as in most European countries- is quite clear: not only is it forbidden to select the sex of the baby for so-called “social” reasons, but doing so is considered a “very serious offence”.
Diseases associated with the sex chromosome
Certain hereditary diseases are transmitted from parents to their children through the genes forming the sex chromosome that determines the baby’s sex. This is the case of serious diseases such as the Fragile X Syndrome, haemophilia or Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Until only a few years ago, to prevent the birth of children affected by hereditary diseases linked to gender, the embryos implanted in the woman’s uterus were selected depending on the sexual chromosome. Consequently, for example, if it was known that a disease would affect the male children of a couple carrying the disease, all the embryos with the male chromosome were discarded even though it was assumed that they might include healthy ones.
PGD, a revolutionary technique
Fortunately the progress made by assisted reproductive technique has made it possible to reach such high levels of precision that it is no longer necessary to rule out embryos due to their sex chromosome. This is possible thanks to Preimplantational Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which allows the cells of an embryo to be analysed in order to identify the gene affected by a disease.
As a result, healthy embryos are identified, regardless of their sex chromosome.
“In Spain no medical centre can select the sex of a child to eliminate the risk of transmitting diseases. The gene that causes the disease can be detected by means of advanced techniques such as PGD”, says Dr. Albert Obradors, head of the Eugin Clinic laboratory. Nowadays, selecting the baby’s sex to prevent the transmission of disease is considered a last option and is only done in cases of extremely rare diseases in which the gene that causes them is not known.
Is it a boy or a girl? Many mothers will still not want to know until they have given birth.