• AS many as 50 per cent of Australian women undergoing IVF treatment want to be able to choose their baby’s gender, a study has found.
And, if gender selection was allowed, most women would like to have a girl while their male partners want a boy.
Researcher Carmel Carrigan said the marked differences in gender choice were likely to create conflict in a relationship.
“If sex selection was permitted in Australia, there would have to be mandatory counselling to help couples resolve differences in their preferences for a boy or a girl,” she said.
The research, to be presented at the Fertility Society of Australia this week, is expected to reignite the controversial issue of parents choosing the gender of their baby.
Ms Carrigan, a senior nurse coordinator at the Queensland Fertility Group, said that while gender selection was prohibited in Australia, fertility centres regularly received requests from patients.
She had interviewed 149 patients, aged from 21 to 47.
At least 70 per cent of the patients who were trying for their first child wanted a girl.
“Interestingly, while 78 per cent of women with none or one child said they would prefer a girl if gender selection was freely available, the preference of the majority of their male partners was for a boy. It’s interesting, because historically boys have been preferred.”
She said for those patients with one or more children, the gender selection was usually based on “family balancing”.
The issue will be among many discussed by delegates at the four-day fertility conference, which begins in Brisbane today.
More than 500 delegates, including scientists, clinicians and counsellors, will attend the event.
“Most commonly, the patients are motivated by the desire . . . to have a mix of boys and girls,” Ms Carrington said.
She said most couples were not deterred by the extra cost of gender selection.
Gender selection has been the source of much debate due to the ethical, moral, social and legal issues.
It may be performed for medical reasons to avoid sex-linked diseases such as haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
One in six couples in Australia have difficulty conceiving, with the causes equally shared between men and women.
Associate Professor Kevin Forbes, chair of the local organising committee, said that, apart from addressing new reproductive technologies, a key objective of the conference was to build public awareness of lifestyle choices that can result in infertility for men and women.