new, highly accurate, blood test can determine a baby’s sex as early as 7 weeks
into the pregnancy. Experts say that it could lead to more widespread use --
parents worried about gender-linked diseases, the curious and people contemplating
selecting their children’s sex.
The test, which analyses fetal DNA found in the
mother’s blood, is noninvasive, unlike amniocentesis and other procedures that
carry risks of miscarriage. The news was published online this week in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
tests have been available to consumers in pharmacies and online for a few
years, but they saw limited use because their accuracy was unclear. European
doctors now routinely use tests to help expectant parents whose offspring are
at risk for rare gender-linked disorders. However, US doctors generally have
not prescribed the tests because they are unregulated and medical labs are not
yet federally certified to use them.
new study could change that, as well as other aspects of the pregnancy
landscape. Women may abort fetuses of an undesired sex. A recent study of third
pregnancies in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis found that in some Asian-American
groups, more boys than girls are born in ratios that are “strongly suggesting
prenatal sex selection,” the authors said. The tests analyse a blood sample
from the mother, searching for the fetus’ DNA.
Arthur Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania, said:
“Few will argue that finding out early in a pregnancy if a
male fetus has a fatal form of muscular dystrophy or Rett Syndrome -- a nervous
disorder that causes males to die in utero -- would be beneficial to many
families. But outside of that kind of testing, everything about the early
testing of fetal genes for sex identification spells ethical trouble. And, as
the techniques for the analysis of fetal DNA become more and more accurate and
affordable, it is likely to reshape the debate over abortion.” ~ New York Times, Aug 10; MSNBC, Aug 9