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American company offers home fetal DNA gender testing kit

1 July 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 315

A company in the United States has begun marketing a kit which allows women to discover the sex of their baby as early as five weeks into the pregnancy. Currently, expectant mothers can get a good idea of their baby's sex with a routine ultrasound at around 16 weeks, but the results are not always guaranteed.

To use the Baby Gender Mentor Home DNA Gender Testing Kit, a woman takes a small finger prick blood sample and sends it off to a lab in Lowell, Massachusetts for testing. The lab detects and analyses fetal DNA floating in the mother's blood and checks for the presence of Y chromosomes, which only males have. If Y chromosome DNA is found, then the baby is a boy, if not, then it is a girl. Customers get their results within two or three days. The $275 test is supposed to be 99.9 per cent accurate, and comes with a double money back guarantee.

Fetal DNA analysis has been around since the late 1990s when researchers first discovered that in a pregnant woman's blood some 'cell-free' DNA comes from the fetus. The technique could eventually be used for prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome.

Mommy's Thinkin', the company marketing the test through the website, claims that 50-70 per cent of parents-to-be want to know the sex of their children in advance, mainly so they know what colour to paint the nursery and can decide on names. The test is aimed at 'women who can't wait to open their Christmas presents', according to the company's website. Ethicists, however, worry that the test could be used for sex selection, to terminate unwanted pregnancies based on gender.

'You can tiptoe around it, but the fact is that if you're sending information about sex, then you're in the sex selection business,' bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania told the Boston Globe. He would not ban the test, but he does condemn it.

Sex selection is a growing and potentially destabilising problem in some Asian societies where male children are preferred. In China, this has led to an imbalance of 120 men for every 100 women. And in one affluent area of New Dehli, a recent report found that for every 1000 boys born, only 762 girls were born.

In the US, sex selection is discouraged, with the exception of couples whose children may inherit sex-linked disorders. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is concerned that sex selection 'may ultimately support sexist practices.'

Baby's gender revealed as early as fifth week of pregnancy
Yahoo Daily News |  20 June 2005
Test reveals gender early in pregnancy
The Boston Globe |  27 June 2005
6 February 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
A new study offers 'proof of principle' for a non-invasive pregnancy test that can detect conditions such as Down syndrome using samples of the mother's blood. The findings, published online in the Lancet journal, show that the technique correctly diagnosed 58 out of 60 samples, with...
25 September 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
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3 March 2006 - by BioNews 
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31 May 2005 - by BioNews 
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23 May 2005 - by BioNews 
Testing embryos for chromosomal abnormalities before they are returned to the womb can dramatically improve the 'take home baby rate' for some patients, according to a US fertility doctor. Speaking at the Sixth International Symposium on Preimplantation Genetics, held in London last week, Yury Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute...
21 March 2005 - by BioNews 
A survey of 561 American women undergoing treatment for infertility shows that 41 per cent would choose the sex of their baby, if sex selection was offered at no additional cost. However, it seems that any fears about sex selection causing gender imbalances are unfounded, say the researchers, as the...
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