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What does baby gender selection involve and is it legal in the UK?

The procedure known as gender selection, baby sex selection or family balancing is where the sex of a baby is chosen before you actually get pregnant. Several modern medical techniques can be used to allow parents to select the gender of their baby. The treatment was developed to address a variety of genetic abnormalities that a baby may be born with. However, it's increasingly being used by couples who simply want a boy rather than a girl or vice versa.

UK law
Sex or gender selection has been banned in Britain since 1993. At the moment, such treatment is only permissible in cases where there is a genuine medical reason for the procedure, for example in cases of sex-related genetic defects. More information about gender selection in the UK.

Sex selection methods
There are several techniques used to help select the sex of a baby. The most commonly used, and the only such treatment available in the UK, is Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This tests the cells of an early stage embryo to differentiate between healthy cells and those containing genetic defects. It also allows for the identification of male and female cells, and therfore sex selection. Other techniques used around the world include the MicroSort and Ericsson sperm sorting techniques. This is where boy producing spems and girl producing spem is identified before being inserted into the uterus. More information about baby selection methods.

NHS treatment
Sex selection will only be available on the NHS if there is a serious medical reason for the treatment. In such cases, you can apply for NHS funding at your local hospital. However, not all areas in the UK offer free treatment, and those that do are likely to have lengthy waiting lists.

Selection clinics
There are a number of fertility clinics in the UK offering baby sex selection through the process of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. However, the treatment will only be available to couples with serious medical issues such as sex-related genetic conditions. More details about gender selection clinics.

Gender selection cost
Baby sex selection through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis costs 1,000 to 2,000 in the UK. For combined PGD and IVF, prices range form 6,000 to 9,000. In the US, gender selection complete with IVF treatment costs well over 20,000. MicroSort costs approximately $3,000 or $15,000 when used with IVF.

Success rates
In terms of accuracy, baby gender selection through PGD is 100% successful. Success rates for MicroSort sperm sorting are 90% for girls and 75% for boys.

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