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What is Sperm Spinning?

Scientist placing a test tube or sperm in a centrifuge.
Sperm cells with an X chromosome tend to be heavier than those with a Y chromosome.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2014
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Sperm spinning is a process that is designed to separate male and female sperm, allowing parents who are using the assistance of technology to reproduce to select the gender of their baby. Like many techniques used to assist couples who have trouble getting and staying pregnant, this process is not guaranteed to be effective, but it can greatly help to increase the chances of having a baby of the desired gender. Because gender selection is a complicated issue in many societies, sperm spinning is not without controversy, and many parents who choose to use it do not discuss it with people outside the family.

The idea behind this process is fairly simple. Sperm with an X chromosome tends to be heavier than sperm with a Y chromosome, so, in theory, spinning sperm in a centrifuge will separate out the male and female sperm, with the female sperm sinking to the bottom of the centrifuge. Once the process is complete, the sperm of choice can be introduced to an egg to create an embryo that may be implanted in the mother or a surrogate, depending on the family's situation.

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In practice, sperm spinning is a bit more complicated, and several processing techniques are available for couples who want to pursue this treatment. The effectiveness is also a topic of debate, with some studies suggesting that it is not terribly effective, with the chance of having a girl or a boy being about equal. Some practitioners have shown that they can use the technique reasonably effectively, however, so it remains popular in the fertility treatment community.

This technique was originally designed for parents who were concerned about the possibility of passing on dangerous sex-linked genetic traits. For example, in a family with a history of hemophilia, having a boy is a cause for concern, as there is a chance he will be a hemophiliac, whereas girls usually only carry the disease. Gender selection can be used to avoid several other sex-linked diseases as well, reducing strain on parents who may be concerned about having unhealthy children.

Sperm spinning is also, of course, used to select children of a desired gender. In some cases, parents request a specific gender to balance an existing family, while in other instances, they simply have a desire for one gender over the other. This practice is frowned upon by some people who believe that children of all genders should be welcome, and the issue of gender selection raises some uncomfortable issues for some communities, especially in Asia, where boys have traditionally been highly valued over girls.

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Discuss this Article

anon281558
Post 5

Yes, Gender is a social construct. The correct term is "sex".

The U.S. would be wise to fill the 20 million woman gap. -Anorny

anon35731
Post 4

Great Article, but I am having a lot of trouble finding a place that *actually* does this.

I live in KY, but could drive a little, please help with a list of places

anon22570
Post 3

My understanding is that the word "gender" refers to socially constructed traits. "Sex" is the word of choice for physical, biological issues. For example, the fact that men won't ask for directions is probably a gender thing, but then again, if it's hard wired, it would be a sex trait. Anyway, if people are choosing sperm to affect whether they have a boy or girl, I think the word should be "sex" and not "gender."

anon22563
Post 2

No wonder women live longer. They have more genetic capital than men. I have long thought that the male is the default model. Otherwise why would men have nipples? Also women have better design-three exits from the body (of course, one of them is designed to to be an adit) whereas have to only two exits (one is mistakenly used as an adit by some).

The wages of biological sin is evolutionary death.

I understand that there is a twenty million shortage of women in China.

A gynecologist friend of mine said, "Men without women become grumpy." That isn't exactly what he said, but it is close enough. There are likely to be lot of grumpy men in China. Donald W. Bales, M.D. retired

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