Couples often have a vision of what they want their family to look like: number of kids, genders, years in between. Most elements of these vision are uncontrollable, but now couples can have more of a say in their children.
According to its website, IVF Michigan Fertility Center has the technology necessary for in-house embryo genetic testing laboratory. This testing includes Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening which identifies the gender of embryos before pregnancy. Dr. Nicholas Shamma is a founding member of IVF Michigan Fertility Center performing over 8,000 IVF cases.
Frankie Piccirilli and her husband are one of the many couples Dr. Shamma has helped.
"So I always wanted a big family. I would joke with my husband that we were gonna have six, and he’d say two and so then we’d say okay we’ll have four," Picciilli said.
The couple dreamed about their family, but had difficulty getting pregnant with their second daughter, Gisele. They turned to Invitro Fertilization, never knowing their infertility could lead them to selecting the gender of their future children. They now lovingly refer to Gisele as their science experiment.
"I mean it’s very scary you know and its overwhelming because every day you’re waiting on a phone call or you’re waiting on more test results or you’re waiting on a blood draw um but it…it went well for us and I’m extremely grateful for that," Piccirilli said.
While many people may not realize it, Dr. Shamma said sex selection has been available for many years.
"In fact, we have been able to do it, to do that for years actually now and maybe over 10 years. The technology has morphed a little bit to be able to provide better outcome," Dr. Shamma explained.
Couples can come in for a genetic screening on their embryos to determine the sex before implanting.
"They come in basically for family balancing. If they have say three boys and and women and couples always want to have their little girl, they come in for a girl and visa-versa," Dr. Shamma said.
Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening can not only determine sex, but also check chromosomes for chromosomal abnormalities like down syndrome. The fewer abnormalities, the higher the likelihood the embryo implantation will result in pregnancy, according Dr. Shamma.
When the Piccirillis went through IVF, multiple embryos were created and they now have 5 embryos frozen: three boys and two girls. Now they are thinking about baby number three.
"And so we sat down with Dr. Shama. He looked at my husband and he kinda giggled and he says I know why you’re here. So yes, the next time we do a transfer we plan on putting in one little boy," Piccirilli said.
Piccirilli explained their family and friends have shared their opinions on IVF and sex selection, "but their conversation is more about worrying about us or interested in what our choices or our convictions are."
Dr. Shamma also understands the opinions of people believing doctors performing procedures like this are taking on the role of God.
"If you create embryos with…with…and treat them with respect as potential life like I do, then I think we’re helping. And we’re helping the heavens or whatever divine entity you want to call," Dr. Shamma explained.
Dr. Shamma highlighted data is being tracked and there has been no change to the natural ratio from boys to girls since gender selection became an option. As far as success rates go, he tells us if the IVF results in pregnancy, the sex selection has never been wrong with this procedure.
The Piccirillis plan to try for their baby boy with another IVF procedure this fall in, hoping people will stop judging and try understanding their decisions.
"I think people need to do what feels right for their family and this procedure is not easy by any means," Piccirilli said.