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Posted at: Jan 12, 2015, 2:35 AM; last updated: Jan 12, 2015, 1:47 AM (IST)SEX DETERMINATION TESTS

Ban gives way to intake of gender selection drugs

PGI’s genetics counselling clinics find cases where these have led to malformity in children

Ritika Jha Palial

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11

In a “fallout” of the Pre-Conception, Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT Act) that prohibits sex determination using ultrasound, intake of ayurvedic sex selection drugs by women desiring to have a son, continues to be rampant, at least in North India.

According to clinical observations of experts at the PGIMER, the intake of these drugs —perceived as a sureshot method to conceive a male child — is prevalent prominently in Punjab and Haryana.

Over 1,400 women registered are with the ante-natal couselling clinic at the PGIMER since 2006. These include mothers of children with congenital malformation, or with problems of infertility and complicated pregnancies.

“The counselling sessions reveal that how these women are under pressure mostly by their in-laws and social circle to have a male child. Many of them present a history of intake of ayurvedic drugs in the initial three months of their pregnancy,” said Professor Amarjeet Singh, School of Public Health, PGIMER, who first published a study on congenital malformations in the journal,Indian Pediatrics, in 1994, a first such paper in the country. 

“While no evidence of effectiveness of these drugs in ensuring sex selection has been found in medical science, a series of our studies have rather found that the steroids present in these ayurvedic drugs have resulted into malformities in children (when consumed by expectant women),” he added.

Also, the latest study conducted by his team, concluded in 2008, found that all 203 mothers of the children born with deformities at the PGIMER had history of intake of sex selection drugs. 

The ante-natal clinic and genetic clinic are managed by Dr Jasvinder Kalra (gynaecology) and Dr Inusha Panigrahi’s (pediatrics), PGI.

Cases at PGI
 
Nearly four to five new cases (ante-natal/preconceptional) are registered at the pre-natal counselling clinic held every Monday. In addition, four to eight follow-up cases come to the clinic or to the Genetic Clinic in Advanced Pediatric Centre for consultation. These include cases of previous thalassemia or Down syndrome, previous neural tube defect and ultrasound detection of malformation.
 
What is PCPNDT Act
 
The PCPNDT Act (Pre-Conception, Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) is an amendment of the PNDT Act 1994 that banned the detection of sex of the foetus and has been a useful step towards curbing female foeticide. Despite all these measures, sex ratio continues to be a matter of concern nationally: 933 females per 1,000 males. 
 
Ayurvedic drugs taken by expectant mothers
 
  • Two ayurvedic drugs are used as sex selection drugs, but can’t be banned as they are prescribed for other ailments too.
  •  While no evidence of effectiveness of these drugs begetting a male child has been found in medical science, it finds a mention in the ayurveda.
  • Mostly registered medical practitioners or quacks prescribe these. These are sold over the counter readily.
 
Couples find an alternative
 
Experts also said open access to sex determination in countries abroad has been allowing affluent couples to follow sex selection pregnancy terminations under the carpet. Also, in western countries, sex selection techniques are available in form of pink and blue kits. However, even these have not gathered scientific evidence in begetting a male child. 

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