Historically, couples had many children to help tend the farms and ensure security in old age. Also, couples had many children because one in five children died before age five. With large families, having children of both genders was common.
Yet in some cases, couples had many children in a quest for a hoped-for boy or girl. Some had six, even 10 children ― all of the same sex ― just to get that desired girl or boy baby. Today, many couples and single women are having smaller families for social and economic reasons, including the fact that women are pursuing education and careers in their 20s and 30s, and starting families later.
With smaller families comes the desire to balance children’s genders. Some couples desire a boy and a girl as they want to experience the feminine and masculine ‘energies’ of both genders.
Also, some people turn to gender selection methods for emotional reasons. Some women yearn for that mother-daughter bond usually driven by what they either had or didn’t have with their own mothers. While nothing is new about our desire to influence a baby’s gender, what has changed is the technology to dependably achieve this goal.
We can now do what the Ancients only dreamed of, thanks to modern assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is performed after conception in a laboratory.
As interest in gender selection grows, more fertility clinics are offering PGD — developed and mainly used to diagnose genetic disorders — for family balancing gender selection purposes. This new trend raises ethical, moral and social concerns that society has begun to sort out. Some countries have banned gender selection methods (e.g., Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK), but in the U.S. the practice of PGD family balancing is legal and growing.