"We found that only 8 percent of people would use pre-implantation sex selection for non-medical reasons," said Dr. Tarun Jain, assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at University of Illinois at Chicago and senior author of the report.
The findings, published in the February issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, are the result of a cross-sectional, web-based survey of 1,197 people (587 men and 610 women) between 18 and 45 years old.
In the study, 77 percent of people who wanted more than one child indicated they either preferred an equal number of boys and girls or had no preference as to the sex of their children.
Pre-conception sex selection using sperm-separation technology is currently available in the United States as part of an FDA-approved clinical trial. The technique is not without controversy, but is expected to become more readily available to consumers at the completion of that trial.
The marketing and increased availability of the technology poses moral, legal and social issues. Some fear that sex selection may disrupt the natural sex ratio, contribute to gender stereotyping and discrimination, and hasten a trend toward "designer babies."
"So far, all of the ethical discussions about sex selection have focused on 'what if' scenarios without any legitimate data," Jain said. "This study should provide a legitimate framework to better lead the discussion about the realistic implications of sex selection technology."
Sperm separation requires patients to provide a sperm sample and undergo an average of three to five cycles of intrauterine insemination at a fertility center, at a cost of approximately $2,500 per attempt.