Dubai: A test for pregnant women - banned in India and China, which can detect whether the baby is a boy or girl as early as the seventh week - is now available in the UAE for the first time.
"The first thing a woman wants to know when told she is pregnant is the sex of the baby," said Jihad Sa'adeh, general manager of business development for Medsol, the laboratory group offering the test.
The highly sensitive test is marketed under the name "pink or blue" and only requires a drop of blood from the woman seven weeks into conception. It works by detecting minute quantities of male or female DNA of the baby in the mother's blood and is 95 per cent accurate.
"Studies show the foetal cells will be present in the mother's blood in seven weeks," said the manager.
The tests are available in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, where the Medsol labs are located. The group is taking part in the Arab Health congress and exhibition.
The tests are banned in India and China as most parents "misuse" the advance information, said the manager. Most parents in the two Asian countries prefer boys over girls and use the information to carry out abortions, he said.
Dr Ameen Al Ameri, CEO for medical practice and licence, said the UAE is always ready to provide the most advanced technology to residents.
"A baby, whether a boy or a girl, is a gift from Allah. We have no right to reject this gift," he said, commenting when told how some parents could wrongly use this advance information.
An ultrasound scan can only find out the gender of the baby five or six months into conception when the genitalia can be distinguished.
Doctor Sejal Surti, a gynaecologist with Al Rafa Polyclinic, thinks the test is a bad idea. "It could affect the entire pregnancy if the parent who has some favouritism finds out the gender early," she said.
She said not many parents who come to see her are interested in knowing the gender early.
Abortions: Preventing misuse
India and China have banned early gender tests as some parents use the information to abort the foetus if they find out it is a girl.
In China this practice had resulted in a large imbalance in the male-female population. The test costs Dh1,100 and the result is known within a week. Plans are to cut the time to three days. In the near future it will include a test for genetic anomalies also.
Will this be beneficial for parents? What difference would it make if the gender is known?