As you and your partner prepare for pregnancy, carrier screening should be at the top of your pre-conception “to-do” list. Despite no symptoms, you could be carrying an inherited genetic condition and not even know it. These conditions can be passed to your children if both partners carry the same mutated or defective gene. Carrier screening is used in the family planning process to detect any genetic disorders you and your significant other may be carrying without your knowledge, and to help you understand the risk of passing one of the conditions on to your children.
Fortunately, you can take steps now to prepare for the future by getting screened. With just a simple blood test, you can determine if your baby will be born with a genetic disorder that could affect their physical and mental development.
However, since carrier screening is a new concept for couples wanting to start a family, there are a few misconceptions about the test. We’re here to help you clear up any confusion.
1] Only couples who have a family history of a genetic disorder should be screened
Any couple who is looking to be proactive in the family planning process should be screened to determine if they carry an inherited genetic disease they could pass to their children, even if there is no family history of such a disorder. In addition to your family history playing a major role in your carrier status, there are other factors that make you a candidate for carrier screening.
If you are related to your partner or spouse genetically (consanguinity), you are more likely to have a child with a genetic condition and you should be screened before you plan to conceive. Couples who already have a child with a genetic disorder or those who suffer from a condition themselves will also benefit from carrier screening.
2] Carrier screening is not specific to disorders found in my demographic area
This is true for some screening tests by companies that outsource the testing to labs in different countries throughout the world, but the Claria screening test was developed to scan for inherited genetic diseases that are specific to the Indian population.
The outsourced tests compare your genetic DNA to the population where their lab is located, meaning your results can easily be skewed. With Claria, your blood sample is collected and screened in India, enabling the identification of genetic disorders that are unique to our country.
3] Carrier screening comes with risks
It is easy to steer clear of medical procedures because you are worried about the risks, but with carrier screening, you don’t have any risks to worry about! The test procedure is extremely simple and only requires a small sample of blood to be taken from your arm.
Besides a small pinch from the needle, there is really nothing else to fear when you are screened to determine your carrier status. In addition, you can even avoid the doctor’s office altogether by having a medical professional come directly to you to collect the blood sample. You will then receive your results within 4-6 weeks.
4] Interpreting the results can be confusing
There’s no confusion with Claria. What sets us apart from other companies that offer carrier screening is our use of the industry’s latest advancements in technology, combined with our dedicated genetic counselors who are available to assist you every step of the way. Our expert counsellors will explain the benefits of screening and the test process, and will answer any of your questions before you and your partner get screened (pre-test counseling). Once you have received your results, your genetic counsellor will thoroughly explain your results, as well as your options for moving forward (post test counseling)
5] There are no options for couples who carry the same genetic condition
If you and you partner are screened and it is determined that you are both carriers of the same genetic condition, there is a 25% chance your child will be born with the disorder, a 25% the child will not carry the disease, and a 50% chance the child will be an unaffected carrier – just like his or her parents. If only one parent is found to be a carrier, your children will have no chance of being born with the disorder and a 50% chance they will be unaffected carriers.
You still have options to start a family if it is determined both you and your partner carry a genetic condition. Some couples may make the decision to conceive, regardless of the odds but are mentally prepared to accept the baby with the disorder. Another option that can be considered is Artificial Reproductive Techniques (ART) eg. In- vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs or sperm. There is also the option of prenatal diagnosis during the third month of pregnancy and opting for selective termination if the fetus is found to be affected by a genetic condition. Some families also take the route of adoption.
What is right for one family, may not be right for another. Our genetic counsellors are available to help you explore your options and help you make informed decisions that are best suited for you and your family.
If you’re ready to get proactive about your family’s health before you conceive, consider carrier screening!