LONDON - A new test dubbed "Pink or Blue" promises to tell parents the sex of their foetus just six weeks into pregnancy.
But critics question its reliability and say it could open a Pandora's box of ethical issues.
British company DNA Worldwide launched the test last month for sale over the Internet, targeting a broad world audience.
The company bought the rights to market the technique from a US company that has been selling the test online, mainly to Americans, since last year.
The company does not ship to countries including China and India, where there is sometimes a marked preference for boys over girls. Some experts suggested the test could lead some parents to abort if they were unhappy with the result.
The test works by analysing foetal DNA that leaks into the mother's bloodstream. Some experts expressed doubts about the technique.
"The earlier in pregnancy that you do these tests, the less foetal DNA there will be around, and possibly, the less accurate the test will be," said Patrick O'Brien, a consultant obstetrician and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
"At six weeks of pregnancy, it's questionable whether the technology is that good."
Parents willing to wait longer can get a head-to-toe ultrasound at 20 weeks, which is almost 100percent accurate. Invasive procedures such as amniocentesis, which carry a small risk of miscarriage, can be performed at about 11 weeks.
Parents who order the "Pink or Blue" test receive a packet and the mother puts a spot of her blood on a special card.
The card is sent back to the company's laboratories and within four to six days the gender of the foetus is revealed with up to 98percent accuracy if instructions are properly followed, according to DNA Worldwide.
Because the test is marketed as "informational" rather than medical, it is not regulated by any health authority in Britain or abroad. - Sapa-AP