Making Babies

The Gender Flap

(Courtesy Orca Communications)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What's New The Baby Gender Mentor purports to be the earliest means of finding out a baby's sex, promising results five weeks post-conception.

Back Story Currently, determination of a baby's sex is a side benefit of invasive tests such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which may be done at 11 weeks, especially in women over 35, to detect chromosomal anomalies. Ultrasound, which may be performed as early as five weeks, can reveal sex, but it is not always done in the first trimester and its accuracy depends on the baby's position.

The Baby Gender Mentor is "basically the earliest, least invasive way for a woman to determine a baby's gender," said Sherrie Bonelli, CEO of the online retailer, which sells the product. The Web site of Acu-Gen Inc., developer of the test, is the only other place to buy it.

Money Matters The $25 kit includes two pregnancy tests, a blood specimen collection kit and a prepaid FedEx envelope. After confirming her pregnancy with the urine test, a woman smears blood from a finger prick onto a card and sends it to Acu-Gen's lab in Lowell, Mass. Getting results requires Web registration and an additional $250.

Mysteries Acu-Gen won't discuss the test's technology, saying it will appear in a scientific journal in a few months. But Bonelli says the test can identify fetal DNA in the mother's blood. The lab guarantees accuracy; users get a $550 refund for incorrect results. The test has not gone through the Food and Drug Administration approval process and it's not clear that will be required.

Downside Obstetricians contacted say there's potentially none, aside from cost, if the test is accurate. But they expressed concern that parents might use it to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy if they were concerned about a sex-linked inherited condition, or if they want to choose the baby's sex.

Until Acu-Gen releases its data, there's no way to know the test's reliability, said Sandra Carson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine who specializes in sex selection. "Until that's out, I think it shouldn't be on the market," she said.

-- Alicia Ault

© 2005 The Washington Post Company