A National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) review panel is looking at letting parents use IVF to choose the gender of their child.

Experts looking at new Health Department rules for IVF clinics suggest IVF could be used to choose the gender of a first child only to avoid genetic diseases like haemophilia, which mostly affects boys.

But some fertility specialists are lobbying for the ability to use IVF to balance families, if a couple had already had three boys and wanted a girl, for example.

“We wouldn’t want to promote any gender bias so that people select the sex of their first child,” NHMRC review chair Professor Ian Olver has told reporters.

“I don’t think there would be an appetite for anything that emphasised one gender over another and allowed people, for cultural or racial reasons, to pick one gender.’’

Prof Olver says the NHMRC has heard the demands for an Israeli-style law in Australia, which would let families choose the sex of a baby if they have children of the same gender already.

“There’s a difference between that and being able to choose your first child because you want a boy... there are cultures where that sort of thing happens,” he said.

Australians have been travelling overseas to access IVF clinics in the US and Asia to get around the ban on gender-selection.

“Some of them may be putting themselves in a less than ideal medical situation to achieve their goal, so that has to be taken into consideration,” Prof Olver said.

Fertility Society of Australia chief Michael Chapman has told News Corp that he supports “gender balancing” in families with two or more children of the same sex.

“I see many distraught couples with three or four children of the same sex who want to have a child of the opposite sex,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

AMA chief Michael Gannon has described sex selection for family balancing as “not an appropriate use of medical science”.