Pre-Pregnancy Genetic Testing: What It Is And How It Can Impact Your Family Planning Efforts

Genome testing – a controversial subject that becomes more relevant with every passing day. As technological and scientific knowledge continues to grow, so does the amount of information available to the general public. If you and your partner are considering genome testing before you start your family, you may have a few questions running through your minds.

Who Should Consider Genetic Testing?

If you or your spouse are suspected carriers for a disorder, or you belong to a certain ethnic group, prenatal genetic testing can help you to sort through your options more thoroughly.

Certain disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia, are recessive. This means that both parents must be carriers for their child to have a chance of developing the disease. Other conditions, such as Huntington disease, are dominant, which means there's a 50% chance their child will have the condition when born. Other conditions appear only within certain ethnic groups, usually due to a limited gene pool.

How Can Genetic Testing Contribute to Family Planning Efforts?

When planning your family, it can be helpful to know which conditions may be more likely than others to appear within your child. Knowing you and your partner's genetic makeups can help you to make appropriate-for-you family planning decisions.

If the risk of passing on a condition is too great, couples may choose to go with artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization in order to conceive. Others may consider adoption, and still other couples may decide that children aren't for them. Prenatal genetic screening can lead to a wealth of helpful information for couples.

What are the Ethical Consequences of Such Knowledge?

Genome testing has come under fire since the very beginning, leading many to wonder what the ethical consequences of such knowledge are.

Proponents of pre-pregnancy screening claim it can cut infant mortality by 20–30%, but there are many who worry about what this will mean for the human race. Those who are against such screening say that false-positives and false-negatives can lead to unrealistic expectations of perfectly healthy infants. Others claim it can lead to harmful views of those with disabilities.

Pre-pregnancy genetic testing is a very personal choice. While your doctor's input can be helpful, the decision is ultimately up to you and your partner. For more information and to help you decide whether pre-pregnancy screening is right for you, consult with your family doctor or a genetic counselor. For more information about family planning, visit Abortion Care.