Determining Child Gender at Time of Conception

I am a mother of four lovely girls. My younger sister (who came next to me) has two burly boys. The rest of our siblings have at least one boy and one girl in their respective broods. During family gatherings, my sister and I never get tired of kidding our respective youngest kids by saying we’re going to swap them before returning home. That, of course, is a way of saying how I wish I have a boy and my sister, a girl.

Is it possible for parents to choose the gender of the baby they want conceived? Before this question is answered, it is important that we understand how a child’s gender is determined at the time of conception.

Science books dealing on this specific subject tell us that a group of forty-six chromosomes are contained within the nucleus of every cell of the human body. An essential feature of the forty-six chromosomes in each of the cells is that they are arranged in twenty-three pairs. When these are traced back to the original cell formed at the time of conception, we learn that one chromosome of each pair is identical to one in the sex cell the father supplied and the other in the same pair is the same as one in the sex cell supplied by the mother.

Of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes within each cell of the body, one pair is distinguished as sex chromosomes. In the case of the female gender, the two members of this pair are designated as X chromosomes. Therefore, all cells in a woman’s body have two X chromosomes. In the male gender, the two sex chromosomes are not the same – one is an X chromosome, while the other one is called Y chromosome. These sex-cell designations apply to all cells in a woman’s body or a man’s body, including even the sex cells in the ovaries and testes that are immature.

When immature sex cells are ready for the prospect of conception, one member of each pair of chromosomes is removed. Therefore, inasmuch as the only kind of sex chromosome present in cells of the female gender is X chromosome, what is kept will, of course, always be an X chromosome. It is altogether different in the case of the male gender’s sex cells when they are prepared for the possibility of conception – some cells will contain an X chromosome and some a Y chromosome. Hence, there are two kinds of mature male sex cells: one containing an X chromosome and one containing a Y chromosome.

With the foregoing facts, let us now try to understand how the gender of a child is determined. A child’s gender will be female under this scenario: a male sex cell carrying an X chromosome links up with a female sex cell (which similarly contains an X chromosome) at the time of conception. On the other hand, an offspring’s gender will be male when, at the time of conception, a male sex cell carrying a Y chromosome combines with a female sex cell (which, of course, contains an X chromosome as previously mentioned).

With the ever advancing fields of science and technology, someone in the know in our family mentioned that it is now very possible for parents to choose the gender of the child they would like to conceive, albeit some people raise moral or ethical issues on this. Whatever, my sister and I agree we’re both too late for this interesting development.


“Boy or girl? The mysteries of gender selection” by Mark Kan, MD, on Pregnancy & Baby –