ó Natalia Fedulova always wanted to have at least two
children, a boy and a girl.
10, she had even picked out her babiesí names: Deana and
37, and her husband, Igor Fedulov, did indeed have a daughter
ó and another and another. So when, in the course of
conceiving their next child with in vitro fertilization (IVF),
they learned that they had produced two healthy embryos, one
male and one female, they decided to implant the male one
having three girls, I definitely wanted to have a boy,"
said Fedulova, who is saving the female embryo for her next
Fedulovs represent a little-discussed aspect of gender
selection with IVF, in which eggs are removed from the womanís
body for fertilization. While the controversial practice of
undergoing IVF solely for the purpose of gender selection gets
more attention, it may be more common to undergo IVF and
gender-revealing genetic screening of the embryos to determine
their viability, and then, as a bonus, get to choose gender.
kind of like icing on the cake," said the Fedulovsí
fertility doctor, Dr. Elena Trukhacheva, of the Reproductive
Medicine Institute in west suburban Oak Brook.
no good data on this type of "icing on the cake"
gender selection, or even an accepted name for it, but
Trukhacheva said that in her practice, itís more common than
the better-known practice of seeking IVF solely for gender
selection. She said that about 5 percent of IVF cycles, or
pregnancy attempts, at her clinic are solely for gender
selection, while 15 to 20 percent of IVF patients do genetic
screening of the embryos for medical reasons.
patients who do screening for medical reasons, about half do
not want to know gender, and about half have a mild gender
the last year for which data was available, about 175,000 IVF
cycles, or pregnancy attempts, were reported to the Society
for Assisted Reproductive Technology, according to SART
President Dr. Jim Toner. In 5,800 of those cases, genetic
screening of the embryos was performed. Only about 800 of
those genetic screenings were done solely to determine gender.
Itís not known how many of the remaining 5,000 screenings
led to "icing on the cake" gender selection, Toner
gender selection for nonmedical reasons has been banned in
Canada and some European countries, and itís controversial
in the U.S., where a SART ethics committee recommends that
individual doctors and clinics make their own decisions as to
whether to offer it. A recent paper by the SART ethics
committee points to arguments in favor of embryo sex
selection, including privacy and reproductive freedom, as well
as opposing arguments such as the potential for sex
discrimination and gender imbalances in society.
you have a couple who wants to balance the family and have a
girl after three boys, you can understand where that would be
appealing, but that also means the boys are not going to be
transferred (to the uterus)," Toner said.
is a medical and social issue ó youíre allowing people to
pick. What would be next, eye color? Thereís a concern about
a slippery slope."
Fedulovs, who live in Chicago, said they wouldnít be
interested in choosing characteristics other than gender.
Trukhacheva said there are medical as well as ethical barriers
to offering such choices: Human genetics are complex, she
said, and selecting a desired characteristic (say, eye color)
could lead to inadvertently selecting an undesired
characteristic, as well.
technology is not there," she said of selection for
characteristics other than gender. "I donít think
anybodyís working on that kind of selection, and hopefully
that will not happen."
40, who runs a mobile app company, and Fedulova, who owns a
hair salon, turned to IVF fertility treatment to conceive
their first child, Deana, now 9.
was close to 10 years before we had our first child, and Igor
never expressed his emotions about how many kids he wanted to
have and who he wanted to have ó a boy or a girl. There was
no conversation about it," Fedulova said.
then when our first child was born, Igor kind of fell in love
with kids and expressed his feeling that he wanted five
smiled in the toy-studded living room of their airy town home,
where the coupleís four children were playing quietly.
funny," he said. "Right up to 3 years old, itís
hard, but I think kids after 3 change a lot. They grow, and
they kind of absorb everything. You do something one way, and
then you see them doing it the same way. Itís fun."
Fedulovs conceived their next two children, 6-year-old twins
Sofia and Alexandra, with IVF fertility treatment as well.
They did genetic screening of the embryos to detect
abnormalities, as they had with Deana, and again there were no
healthy male embryos.
their fourth child, they ended up with two healthy embryos, a
male and a female.
embryo became Maxim, now 2 Ĺ, an engaging toddler with big
blue eyes and a penchant for cars and trucks. The Fedulovs
saved the female embryo for their next pregnancy attempt. They
plan to have five children and already have picked out a name
for the girl embryo.
recent visit, Maxim engaged a reporter in a wind-up car game,
played with his sisters and distracted the grown-ups with a
toy truck and a winning smile.
with girls his age, he is very straight-forward," his
father said. "He wouldnít ask anybody (for permission);
heíd just drop things. He would jump from the couch; the
girls would sort of descend carefully. He would run and fall
and run again; the girls would cry."
on their childrenís fine behavior, the Fedulovs laughed.
"Itís very quiet right now," Fedulova said, in a
manner suggesting the condition is temporary.
brought them to the office, and they were super nice,"
Fedulov said. "Everyone was like, ĎI want to baby-sit
your babies!í I said, ĎWell, letís see whatís going to
happen after they get used to you.í"