How New Technologies Can Help Influence Whether You'll Conceive a Boy or a Girl

Cutting-edge techniques can help couples conceive the baby of their dreams. But is that such a good thing?

An Eternal Quest

Jennifer Merrill Thompson was confident the baby she was carrying -- her second -- was a girl. After all, the mom from Vienna, Virginia, had followed the suggestions in the book How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby, which detailed how to optimally time intercourse in order to conceive a girl. So when the sonogram image left no doubt that her daughter was, in fact, another son, a shocked Thompson burst into tears. "I didn't want to be just a mother of boys," she explains.

Although Thompson says she immediately fell in love with her son, she still felt a void that could only be filled by little frilly dresses. Thompson became a mom on a mission, scouring the Internet for a way to guarantee that baby number three would be her dream daughter.

Her quest landed her at the Genetics & IVF Institute, in Fairfax, Virginia, where a clinical trial is currently under way to test the safety and efficacy of a sperm-sorting process called MicroSort. After three rounds of artificial insemination, Thompson finally conceived her little girl. "Our family wouldn't be complete without her," says Thompson, who makes no apologies for taking the extra steps to ensure that her last baby would come home swaddled in pink.

Different Times, Same Hope

Throughout history, parents have tried to influence their children's gender. In ancient Greece, men believed they could father a boy if they had sex while lying on their right side. French men in the 1700s tied off their left testicle in the hopes of producing sons. Library shelves have long been lined with books offering gender-selection folk wisdom, some of it even scientifically based. Still, a couple's odds of naturally conceiving their dream son or daughter remained at about 50/50 -- until the birth of the first test-tube baby in 1978 ushered in a brave new world of baby-making. Today, thanks to advances in reproductive technology, couples can not only get help conceiving their baby, they can also choose their child's sex. And everyone -- from parents and fertility specialists to medical organizations and bioethicists -- has an opinion about whether this progress is a blessing or a curse.

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