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Why you might want to get genetic testing before getting pregnant

So you're TTC and doing everything right - keeping active, staying healthy, and tracking your data - which is awesome! Chances are, you’ll get pregnant in no time. But even before you get pregnant, you and your partner might want to get tested for genetic conditions. Many people - both those who have family histories of certain genetic conditions and those who aren't aware of any such histories - opt to get tested to learn more about their chances for passing on certain genetic conditions to their children.

Why get genetic testing?

Even if neither you nor your partner have a genetic condition, there may be a chance that you are “carriers” of a disease. This means that even though you do not have the condition, you may "carry" and pass on the genes that cause that condition to your children. Some diseases are passed down from just one parent, so you might know if there’s a family history of a certain condition. However, recessive diseases are those that only become active in a child if the trait is passed down from both parents. This means that both parents must be carriers of a disease, like Cystic Fibrosis, in order for the child to contract it. Carrier status can pass through generations without a person developing the disease, so anybody could benefit from genetic testing to rule out any unexpected coincidence.

What are some common diseases that genetic testing looks for?

If you opt for genetic testing, you’ll be able to find out whether you are a carrier of a number of different genetic diseases. Some diseases can affect anybody, while others tend to be more prevalent among people of certain ethnicities. Listed below are some of the more common recessive conditions that are tested for, along with the particular ethnicity they tend to affect:

  • Cystic fibrosis: Most common among Caucasians, Eastern European Jews, and French Canadians
  • Tay-Sachs: Most common among Eastern European Jews and French Canadians
  • Sickle cell anemia: Most common in those from the Mediterranean and African-Americans

Although genetic testing isn’t a necessity, many couples will choose to do it to rule out any genetic disorders. You'll have to decide what's best for you. And, as always, if you have questions, do talk to your healthcare provider. 

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Genetic testing." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 7/19/2013. Web.
  • "Carrier Testing for CF." CFF. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, n.d. Web.
  • "Genetic Testing: How it is Used for Healthcare." NIH. U.S Department of Health & Human Services, n.d. Web.
  • Green RC, Berg JS, Grody WW, Kalia SS, Korf BR, Martin CL, McGuire AL, Nussbaum RL, O'Daniel JM, Ormond KE, Rehm HL, Watson MS, Williams MS, Biesecker LG; American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. "ACMG recommendations for reporting of incidental findings in clinical exome and genome sequencing." Genetics in Medicine. 15(7):565-74. Web. 7/13/2015.
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