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Do I Need Genetic Counseling Before IVF or Becoming Pregnant?

by - 10.19.2018 | Blog

If you are planning to become pregnant, or preparing to go through IVF, take advantage of genetic counseling. Screening and counseling for genetic risks is a way for you, and your partner, to understand what possible health threats you bring to the pregnancy, due to medical conditions that run in your families. Genetic screening can alert you to those conditions that could pose a threat to your baby’s health.

By going through genetic counseling before IVF or becoming pregnant you and your partner are able to prepare, come what may. Obviously, if you are planning IVF, you can to go through counseling prior to the procedure to rule out any genetic conditions which may put your baby in a higher risk category for certain birth defects.

At LA IVF we provide prospective parents the opportunity for genetic screening prior to pregnancy. With new advances in genetic testing we’re able to offer you the most up to date genetic screenings for a wide range of diseases, based on your potential risk. LA IVF wants you to experience a healthy pregnancy, and we want your child to start his or her life with every advantage available to remain happy and healthy.

What Exactly is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of assessing the risk of passing on an hereditary disease, or condition, to your baby. So, you will understand if your child is at risk for any number of diseases and conditions present in your family, and that of your partner, a genetic profile is taken. Even couples with no known genetic predispositions for health threats can benefit from genetic counseling before IVF or becoming pregnant.

The genetic counselor has the ability to review your profile and determine what diseases and conditions could be present in your future child. They then determine the inherited disease chances, by calculating the risks of occurrence based on that specific condition, patterns of inheritance, and how predominant the condition is within the family. In short, genetic counseling helps you to be aware of the conditions your child could inherit from both you and your partner.

What Does Genetic Screening Test For?

There are some diseases for which you and your partner may be carriers. Cystic Fibrosis, for instance, can only be passed on when both parents are carriers of the gene. Through genetic tests and counseling you will discover if you both carry the gene that puts your child at significant risk. It’s estimated that between 3% and 10% of the Caucasian population carry the Cystic Fibrosis gene. Genetic counseling will help determine the odds of you and your partner passing on a genetic condition to your child.

Who Should Seek Genetic Counseling?

According to CDC reports, 1 out of every 33 infants born in the U.S. are born with a birth defect. Some birth defects are minor, and some catastrophic. The chance of your baby being born with certain birth defects can be eliminated through proper prenatal care. By seeking genetic counseling, you can avoid passing certain other defects onto your child. If you are aware of your genetic risk factors you can avoid a heartbreaking outcome before becoming pregnant.

Family history, and your ethnicity, can be an indicator of your risk for certain genetic disorders.

  • Eastern European Jews have a genetic predisposition to Tay-Sachs, Dysautonomia, Canavan, and are at a greater risk for passing on Cystic Fibrosis than the general population.
  • African Americans, as well as those of Mediterranean descent (Italian, Greek, Middle-Eastern), are predisposed to passing on thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Southeast Asians carry a risk of passing thalassemia as well.
  • Those with French Canadian backgrounds also carry the genetic predisposition for Tay-Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis.

Of course, there are other conditions that can be ruled out by screening and genetic counseling, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Disease, and hemophilia, for example. There are certain risk factors which indicate the need for genetic counseling. These include:

  • Maternal age over 35
  • Multiple miscarriages
  • Failed IVF attempts
  • If you are aware of any developmental or other disorders within your families.

Currently and as a general rule, women planning on a pregnancy or those with infertility can ask for genetic screening regardless of their risk level or background. A simple blood test can identify the carrier status of hundreds of diseases. If the patient is a carrier, then the partner should be tested to make sure that he is not a carrier either. If he is a carrier, then that’s “too good of a match” between the partners genetically.

In such cases the couple can attempt for pregnancy on their own and seek prenatal testing using CVS (chorionic villus sampling) or amniocentesis. These testes would identify whether the fetus has the actual disease or not.

An alternative and the preferred approach is to undergo IVF treatment with genetic testing of the embryos for the disease. This method can identify the healthy embryos and allow the transfer of the normal embryos into the uterus.