Given the chance, most people wouldn’t choose the sex of their baby before conception, a new survey shows.

The study, published in Fertility and Sterility, is based on an Internet survey of 1,197 men and women aged 18-45 years old. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Between 8 percent and 18 percent of participants stated that they would use medical technology described in the survey to choose whether to have a boy or girl.

“Perhaps this speaks to the fact that people still want to leave things up to chance and not rely on science for everything,” researcher Tarun Jain, MD, says in a news release from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Jain works.

Choosing Boy or Girl

The survey stated that “it may soon be possible for parents to choose the sex of their children” and described three hypothetical scenarios:

Scenario No. 1: Go to a fertility center, provide a sperm sample, undergo 3 to 5 cycles of intrauterine insemination, and pay a fee of about $2,500. Scenario No. 2: Get one cycle of intrauterine insemination at any doctor’s office, with full coverage by health insurance. Scenario No. 3: Take a blue pill to ensure the birth of a boy or a pink pill for a girl.

Following each scenario was the question, “Would you take advantage of this technology?” Most participants said no.

--Scenario No. 1: 8 percent said yes, 74 percent said no, and 18 percent were undecided

--Scenario No. 2: 12 percent said yes, 64 percent said no, and 24 percent were undecided

--Scenario No. 3: 18 percent said yes, 59 percent said no, and 22 percent were undecided

The survey was done by Harris Interactive in September 2004.

Boy-Girl Preference

The survey also gauged preferences for baby boys or girls.

Participants were asked if they would rather have a boy or girl as their first child. Their answers:

--No preference: 42 percent

--Boy: 39 percent

--Girl: 19 percent

Next, they indicated their preferences if they had several kids:

--Equal numbers of boys and girls: 50 percent

--No preference: 27 percent

--More boys than girls: 7 percent

--More girls than boys: 6 percent

--Only boys: 5 percent

--Only girls: 4 percent

Reality Check

“There can sometimes be quite a difference between what people say and what they actually do,” the researchers write, adding that they find it “quite reassuring” to have found similar results in other studies.

“It is only a matter of time before preconception sex selection technology becomes widely available and marketed throughout the United States,” write Jain and colleagues.

“With the numerous ethical issues posed by use of such technology, our study provides some reassurance that preconception sex selection is unlikely to be used by the majority of the population and is unlikely to have a significant impact on the natural sex ratio.”

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Dahl, E. Fertility and Sterility, February 2006; vol 85: pp 468-473. News release, University of Illinois at Chicago.