Fetal Sex Test Can Determine Baby’s Gender at 7 Weeks, Study Considers Implications

A study with “wide-reaching implications” centered on a blood test that can accurately predict fetal gender as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy was published yesterday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, raising concerns about how it may be used if the testing becomes widespread.

Researchers believe the test, which is more accurate than ultrasound gender verification and less invasive and risky than amniocentesis, needs to be administered rigorously to ensure parents-to-be are provided accurate information in their test results. And while the study acknowledges that the test may be used to predict the likelihood of a gender-related congenital defect, it also suggests that in widespread use the test is very likely to be used for sex selection- a practice study data suggests is already somewhat entrenched:

While sex selection is not considered a widespread objective in the United States, companies say that occasionally customers expressed that interest, and have been denied the test. 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.

Dr. Diana Bianchi, of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and the study’s lead author, said a new study is planned to “try to find out why people are buying these [early fetal sex tests]” and what the consequences of widespread early gender testing may be. Bianchi also cited prohibitive cost among testing companies, at $265 to $330 per test, as well as worries it could divert funds from women lacking prenatal care in general.

[nyt]