If you are here reading this, Welcome. I am putting this blog post together for other women and couples to find out more details about Gender Selection- through the sperm spinning procedure. This article is perfect for anyone looking to learn more and what the procedure entails. (This information is not to replace professional advice).
This blog is a 4-part series blog about our decision to use science to select the gender of our second baby, through “Sperm Spinning”.
- Part 1: “Why” we are deciding to look into gender selection and wanting a girl as our next child instead of leaving it all to chance. (Read it now)
- Part 2: ALL of my research about gender selection and Sperm Spinning. (YOU ARE HERE!!!)
- Part 3: My own personal experience having the sperm spinning procedure done. (Writing this now as I am currently pregnant from the having the procedure)
- Part 4: The results. Did it work? (Stay tuned… I’m still waiting to know the results in a few weeks).
What is Sperm Spinning?
In a nutshell, “Sperm Spinning” is a non-invasive gender selection procedure, carried out by Fertility Specialists that can increase the chances of your preferred gender.
There are two most common customers of Sperm Spinning:
Couples that already have two to three sons (or more), and wishes for a daughter. Sperm spinning is significantly more cost-effective in the long run, rather than to keep trying until you get a girl!
Or, couples who only want to have two children, and seek to undergo gender selection to ensure their second child is of the other gender. (This is me!)
How does Sperm Spinning Work?
The funny thing on the web (that must cause a lot of confusion) is that a lot of websites and even Fertility Clinic’s information page mix up the information about Ericsson Method and MicroSort. So here are both methods, in a clear description…
The Ericsson method:
It is based on the theory that Y-sperm (male) swim faster than X-sperm (female). Sperm is placed in a test tube atop a “column” of increasingly thicker layers of albumin and allowed to swim down into the solution. After a certain time period has elapsed, only the fastest sperm should have been able to penetrate to the bottom layer.
Here is the procedure as described by Dr. Scott Ericsson in one study:
- Human serum albumin (HSA), a sticky protein solution, is layered into a column of increasing thickness, here of 7.5% and 17.5%.
- After the semen is centrifuged, washed, and diluted, it is layered on top of the albumin column.
- The column is allowed to stand for 1 hour, allowing sperm to penetrate the albumin. (Although the semen is processed in a centrifuge during the procedure, it is this step — allowing the sperm to swim through the albumin column — that it intended to separate X and Y sperm, rather than the spinning.)
- (Ericsson picks from the “top” or “bottom” depending on which gender you seek).
- E.g. The top layer is discarded, and the column is allowed to stand for another 30 minutes.
- The next layer (originally the middle layer) is discarded.
- The remaining bottom layer is centrifuged, and of this, only the pellet (sediment at the bottom) is retained and prepared for artificial insemination or used for PDG.
The whole procedure from getting the sperm sample to the IUI takes about 4 hours.
How effective is the Ericsson Method? “78-85% percent in couples seeking a boy, and 73-75% percent for girls” (Gametrics website). The rate of success is not 100% guaranteed because not all sperms divided are 100% female or male bearing and some accidental transfers can happen and reach the egg first. There are many debates on the internet whether these statistics are correct as the studies conducted were apparently all been done by Ericsson affiliated researchers (as opposed to independent researchers). In the Gender Selection Survey, 9 results for Ericsson are available. Of those hoping for a girl, 5 of 6 succeeded. 1 of 3 hoping for a boy was successful.
Another form of Gender Selection technology process that has been deemed as quite controversial. MicroSort separates the x-chromosome (female) sperm and Y-chromosome (male) sperm based on their size. (The female sperm are bigger in size as they contain 2.8% more DNA than the male sperm.) MicroSort is a machine assisted by a flow cytometric (a person) that stains the sperm with a DNA-seeking fluorescent dye and separates the sperm by how brightly they are glowing. Female sperm has more DNA (therefore take up more dye) and glow more brightly. This difference in brightness allows the cytometer to sort the sperm by sex. This is done by zapping the non-preferred chromosome sperm with a laser as they flow through the machine. Its effectiveness could be seen by how fluorescent (or not) the sperm sample was afterward.
It was first used in livestock for more than a decade and then began clinical human trials in America until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discontinued approval in 2012 because it involves staining the sperm with a fluorescent dye that could compromise the viability of the sperm after the procedure. Other posts on the web talk about the inhumane way the sperm are zapped or that it can create an imbalance in particular genders in some countries.
How effective is MicroSort? My fertility specialist’s opinion was that they were incorrectly inflating the numbers of its success much higher (90% effective, when it’s more like 21% effective). Although not available in America, anyone wanting to look more into MicroSort procedure, they have laboratories in Mexico, Malaysia, North Cyprus, and Switzerland.
I don’t want to get carried away with the details about MicroSort because my Fertility Specialist warned me away from it and I trust his opinion.
Where can I have Ericsson method sperm spinning done?
It is available at clinics in America (California, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York).
(I’m having mine done at the Southern California Reproductive Centre in Beverly Hills).
Inexplicably, the Ericsson method seems to be available in several other countries where other sex selection procedures have been outlawed, such as in India, where a strong preference for sons has already caused a sex ratio imbalance, and in the designer-baby-phobic United Kingdom.
A lot of my readers are from Australia and unfortunately, Sex selection has been outlawed there since 2004. The main exception is to prevent genetic abnormality or disease. This does not stop the hundreds of Australian couples each year from flying over to an American clinic for the Microsort Method of Sperm Spinning.
(I’m having mine done at the Southern California Reproductive Centre in Beverly Hills).
When searching for a reproductive clinic, I believe you will have more luck finding a place that does ‘sperm spinning’ in a place that does IVF.
How much does sperm spinning cost?
It costs me $3,230 for the first round. I was told if I didn’t get pregnant the first round, it would cost $1,000 each attempt per ovulation cycle. (It’s less than the first round because there are not as many initial tests needed).
Sperm Spinning is dramatically cheaper than IVF, which costs around $14,000-$25,000 each attempt. IVF is more invasive, involving increasing your hormones, harvesting multiple eggs and procedures to extract eggs, fertilize, and implant the fertilized egg. I know of a few women who have done this and said its very taxing on your body and would never do it again. But the upside for IVF is that it’s 100% effective in selecting the gender, eye color (although Dr. Ghadir disagrees), spot rare diseases and is a good alternative for couples with infertility issues.
What is the procedure from start to end?
Here is a quick summary of each step, which I will go into more detail afterward.
First, you will want to nook a consultation with the doctor at the clinic. During the consultation they will explain the process, prices, make sure you understand the risks that this is not 100% effective and answer any questions you may have.
While trying for a baby and while pregnant, you should be taking Prenatal Vitamins. The Southern California Reproductive Centre recommended to take the following:
- Naturally Smart- for woman: ($49.90 USD) It product promotes hormonal balance, enhancing fertility and increasing the chances of conception, helping to ensure a healthy pregnancy, and easing postpartum recovery. The formula contains all the recommended vitamins and minerals of a high-quality pre-natal supplement plus additional vitamins, major minerals and trace minerals as well as a unique proprietary complex with natural pomegranate, blueberry, cranberry, and raspberry extracts that deliver an antioxidant boost.
- Naturally Smart-DHA supplement: ($22.89 USD) This product may improve fetal brain, eyes, and heart development.
Tests before you start the procedure:
1) Blood work.
Prior to starting any procedure, your blood type should be verified, and be screened for conditions that could affect the health of a pregnancy. Documentation of immunity to Rubella (German measles) and Varicella (chicken pox) may also require a blood test. You and your partner will also be tested for hepatitis B and C, HIV and syphilis.
Additionally, genetic testing is advised before you have children if you or your partner has a family history of a genetic disorder, such as sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease or cystic fibrosis. Such testing can reveal if either or both of you carry a copy of an altered gene that would put a child at risk of developing the disorder.
2) Semen Analysis
Your male partner needs to conduct a semen analysis (also known as a sperm count test) to analyze the health and viability of a man’s sperm. They will check the sperm to determine if a man has low sperm count or is infertile before having the sperm spinning procedure. Among other things, the fertility clinic will look at:
- Number: (volume and density- if this volume is low, there could be a diluted amount of sperm present and fertility could be difficult.
- Shape: If a man has greater than 50 percent of sperm that is abnormally shaped, this reduces his fertility. It’s also possible the sperm could be immature and therefore not able to effectively fertilize an egg.
- Movement: For a normal result, more than 50 percent of sperm must move normally an hour after ejaculation. Sperm movement, or motility, is important to fertility because sperm must travel to fertilize an egg. An automated system analyzes the sperm for movement and rates them on a scale of 0 (not moving) to 4 (good movement).
An interesting bit of news: A group of Canadian scientists is perfecting a microscopic ‘sperm obstacle course’ between 100,000,000 sperm to help doctors select the finest 1,000 specimens for IVF. The team also hopes to develop technology that will use image-based analysis to further assist in identifying the best sperm for IVF.
3) Ovarian Reserve Testing.
On the first day of your period, you will call up to schedule a transvaginal ultrasound on day 2 of your period and blood work to check the levels of the determination follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing (LH) and estradiol (E2) to estimate fertility potential. They want to measure egg quality, quantity and reproductive potential to ensure you have a good ability to conceive and measure the risk of miscarriage.
- The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test is used to help diagnose problems with sexual development, menstruation, and fertility. It can be used to diagnose or evaluate polycystic ovary disease, ovarian cysts, irregular vaginal bleeding, and infertility.
- What is FSH? It is secreted by the pituitary gland and It stimulates the production of estradiol (estrogen) and eggs (oocytes) during the first half of the menstrual cycle. The eggs begin to grow in their individual fluid sacs, or follicles, which is the first step in the ovulation process. High levels of FSH are an indication of poor ovarian reserves; in other words, the quality and quantity of eggs are low. (This does not necessarily mean that pregnancy is impossible, but it may be more difficult to achieve).
- The LH blood test measures the amount of luteinizing hormone, which is also secreted by the pituitary gland.
- The estradiol (E2) blood test: The steroid hormone that is produced by the cells lining the ovarian follicles in response to FSH, and the very high levels of E2 within the leading follicle nourish and mature the egg.
- What is Estradiol? It is the most important form of estrogen. It is primarily made in and released from the ovaries, adrenal cortex, and the placenta, and it is responsible for the growth of the breasts, outer genitals, uterus, fallopian tubes, and vagina.
4) Uterine Evaluation
After the menstrual flow has stopped (e.g day 7 of your menstrual cycle) you will have another transvaginal ultrasound and then do an HSC test (a water-test to evaluate the uterus tubes are open). If they are blocked, the sperm can’t meet the egg. It involves placing an iodine-based dye through the cervix and taking x-rays. These x-rays help evaluate the shape of the uterus and whether the fallopian tubes are blocked. The procedure is as follows:
- You’ll lie down on a table, with your legs in stirrups. The doctor will insert a speculum (a metal device used to open your vaginal walls during examinations) then an x-ray machine will be lowered over your abdomen. This can be a bit awkward, especially with the speculum and your knees up.)
- The doctor will insert a swab to clean off the cervix. (This is to reduce the risk of infection). If your cervix is sensitive to touch, this may be a bit achy, but most women don’t experience pain from this.
- A plastic catheter (called a cannula) will be inserted into the cervical opening. This feels kind of like a pap smear and might be a little uncomfortable. Or, you may not feel anything.
- Finally, an iodine-based dye will be injected through the catheter. When the dye is injected, you may feel a warming sensation. This dye will go through your uterus, through the fallopian tubes (if they are open), and spill out into the pelvic cavity. If you feel ANY pain, tell the doctor straight away as it usually means the fallopian tubes are blocked.
- After injecting the dye, your doctor will take the x-rays.
Note: HSG involves a very low amount of radiation. HSG radiation has not been found to cause any unwanted effects, even if you get pregnant later that cycle.
- Once the doctor has decided that the pictures are satisfactory, the x-ray machine will be lifted up and the speculum removed. You’re free to go home.
The next step will be to determine when you are ovulating.
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary. It signals the beginning of your fertile period. A positive result indicates the presence of a high amount of LH or LH surge. The amount of LH in your body will begin to decrease after ovulation, so you’ll only get a positive result during that crucial fertile period. Once the egg is released, it is only viable for about 24 hours. After that, your fertile window is over. This makes it very important to be able to identify this best time to conceive.
A week after your period, buy some Ovulation test strips and start using them to predict when there is an LH surge, and in turn, when you are likely to ovulate. Ovulation will occur after 24-48 hours following a positive test.
When you get a positive ovulation result (for me, it was day 12), call the fertility clinic and they book you in the next day for one last transvaginal ultrasound (to look at the follicles in the ovary and see if the egg had left the ovary). You will also have the same FSH, LH and E2 blood work tests that you conducted on day two of your menstrual cycle. They will also check your hormone levels through your blood work to make sure that your body is giving off all the right signals.
IMPORTANT: Sexual abstinence for at least 2 days (for him), but not more than 5 days, is recommended prior to collecting semen
Your last appointment before the IUI.
They will also do one last Transvaginal Ultrasound to look at the follicles in the ovary and see if the egg had left the ovary.
If everything looks good, you will be booked in the next day for the procedure.
The day of the sperm spinning procedure.
The male partner will go to the fertility clinic in the morning and leave a sample in a urine specimen cup (with his name written on it). Sperm spinning takes approximately 1-2 hours until you are needed.
Before the sperm goes through the Ericsson Method Sperm spinning procedure, it goes through a gradient sperm wash ($170). Sperm washing is a form of sperm preparation that is required prior to intrauterine insemination or IVF because it ‘removes chemicals from the semen, which may cause adverse reactions in the uterus’. During the sperm washing process, sperm is separated from the seminal fluid.
When you arrive, you will have one last Transvaginal Ultrasound to make sure everything looks good and that the egg is has left your ovaries.
The IUI procedure is very quick and takes probably less than 30 seconds to do. You’ll lie down on a table, with your legs in stirrups. The doctor will insert a speculum (a metal device used to open your vaginal walls during examinations) and then
What are the risks of Sperm Spinning?
While there may not be “real” risks to sperm spinning, experts warn that parents should not place all of their hopes on unproven science. Parents should research their fertility clinic, as the solution used to suspend the sperm may not be regulated. Sperm spinning or sorting is regulated heavily in the UK, Australia (and many other countries) and is not typically allowed, except for in cases where a certain gender may carry genetic diseases.
Check with your local fertility doctor about the Ericsson method, and check the licenses, as well as the ratings and reputation, of any center you choose for gender selection.
Is Gender Selection ethical?
I think it’s great that ‘Gender Selection’ options allow parents to make well-informed decisions and have a planned family (with a gender balance of a boy and girl). I fall into this category and hope to only have two children. When you look in the web forums on the internet, there are a ton of mixed opinions. Should people just be grateful for a healthy baby? Some show understanding of the maternal urge for a mother to have their ‘little girl’. And then there are the ‘bigger forces’ that find gender selection a big issue and taboo completely, like some religions and cultures. Gender Selection is banned in many countries for fear of favoring one gender over another.
The Catholic church forbids ‘determination of embryos’, even for applications medicine. They deem things like IVF ‘evil’ and ‘bad’. In Asian culture (like China), there is a strong preference for male children. Bioethicists are concerned that gender selection may cause a greater imbalance of gender and power in the future. (In poorer families who can’t afford science on their side have sadly led to abortion or dumping of unwanted babies bodies). “In China now, there are 117 boys for every 100 girls. In parts of northern India, it’s 140 boys for every 100 girls,” says Michael Sandel, a Harvard University professor and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
What are some OTHER options for Gender Selection that does not involve thousands of dollars?
There are so many other gender selection techniques out there that make my head spin.
- Chinese Conception chart: My mom swears by the Chinese Conception Chart. (She has a really old one printed in her office). The chart predicts the gender by cross-referencing the age of the mother at the time of conception with the month the baby was conceived. I cross-referenced multiple versions on the internet with my first child and on some it revealed I was having a girl and on others, it was a boy, so I can’t trust these things now. So instead of charting which month I can and can’t have sex to have a girl.
- Shettles method is about timing sex around ovulation. It says to have intercourse two days before ovulation to have a boy (as boys are faster swimmers) or have intercourse four or five days before ovulation for a girl (as female sperm outlive male sperm but swim more slowly). Hmmmmm…. well that makes sense for our timing then… we never stretched the days out more than two days and had a boy. Some experts who favor this theory consider it having a 75% accuracy rate.
- Basal Body Temperature: Have sex four to six days before basal body temperature goes up (as the conditions favor male sperm earlier in the cycle).
- Diet: Veggies, sweets and high calcium foods for girls and meats and salty snacks for boys
- Sex positions: Missionary for a girl. Rear-entry for boys.
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