There are various reasons why a couple may wish to conceive either a baby boy or a girl. These may include family balance or societal pressures
Dr Protus Nyongesa, a consultant gynaecologist says it is the man who determines the sex of a baby hence; it is out of ignorance to blame a woman for giving birth to a baby of a particular gender.
“What any couple needs to understand is that the sex of a child is determined by chromosomes. Females have the XX chromosome while males have the XY chromosome. If an X bearing sperm fertilises an egg, a baby girl is conceived and if a Y bearing sperm fertilises an egg, a baby boy will be conceived,” says Nyongesa.
He adds that the issue of sex selection is controversial and difficult to implement. “Issues of timing are just but a by chance. One will find common advice on the timing of sexual intercourse in relation to expected time of ovulation. However, it’s important to note that such advice has not been proven to determine the sex of the baby,” he says.
His sentiments are echoed by Dr Alfred Murage, a consultant gynaecologist and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Aga Khan University Hospital. Dr Murage says sex selection purely for social reasons has ethical and demographic dilemmas, and is medically illegal in many jurisdictions.
However, advanced medical technology and increasing demand for sex selection have both created the need for more debate on the matter.
“There is a push for relaxation of the rules on a selective basis, and more couples may have a chance to pre-select the desired sexes of their children,” says Murage.
According to Murage, more scientifically sound methods of sex selection are available, but must be combined with assisted conception techniques. Y and X bearing sperms can be separated with laser guided techniques. The desired sperms can subsequently be inseminated into the womb, with more than 90 per cent chance of success. Such techniques have long been used in commercial animal farming, but have hardly been licensed in human facilities.
In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) can be combined with a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to preselect fertilized eggs (embryos) of the desired sex. This virtually guarantees conception with the desired sex, and has been licensed for many years in cases where a medical reason for sex selection exists.
However, in Kenya accessing such techniques for social sex selection is limited by cost and the law.