Will it be a girl or a boy? That’s the first question a couple would probably ask themselves as soon as a woman conceives. Now UAE residents can find the answer.
With technological advancements, this question can now be answered as early as seven weeks with a simple pinprick DNA blood test as opposed to the traditional ultrasound testing that reveals the baby’s gender at about five months or 20 weeks.
The ‘Pink or Blue’ test, that has been available in the US until now, has recently been launched in the UAE by Medsol Laboratories and is being showcased at Arab Health Exhibition and Congress until January 28.
However, the arrival of the test in the country has raised questions, with many fearing misuse of technology. Doctors said it would make it easier for couples to consider aborting the baby in case the gender was not what they were hoping for.
“Gender testing internationally is unacceptable if done for the purpose of aborting the foetus,” said Dr Tazyeen Faisal, Specialist Gynaecologist at Medgate Centre in Jumeirah.
“It should only be done to detect anomalies that exist in certain genders,” she explained, adding that ethical, cultural and religious reasons do not allow such tests.
Abortion in the UAE is illegal unless it is done under a medical emergency. However, female infanticide is commonplace in countries such as India and China where the male is given high importance.
“We have launched these tests keeping in mind an early joy of life information and we never encourage personal greed,” explains Jihad Saadeh, General Manager, Business Development, Medsol.
“If we learn that a client intends to misuse the tests, we will not carry out the tests for him,” he said.
However, a Gallup panel poll done in 2007 found that 50 per cent of parents-to-be would like to know the sex of the child as early as scientifically possible, before the child is born.
The test, which is available for Dh1,100, uses the Polymerase Chain Reaction (molecular testing) technique to extract cells from the foetus and detect the chromosome. “If the Y chromosome is present, then it is a boy, else it is a girl,” said Dr Sunil K Tadepalli, VP Laboratory Operations Medsol.
“At present, the test results will be available in seven days but later we will reduce the waiting time and also test for fetal anomalies such as Down Syndrome,” said Saadeh.
Home DNA sample collection kits are also available in the region but come with strict instructions of not allowing male help with the collection which can alter the test results.
“I would prefer the natural surprise element of the baby’s gender,” says Geraldine Wilcock, a mother of two. “I would still want my child even if it was not sex I was thinking it was,” she adds.