Doc DNAWith the advancement of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), there are many options for couples struggling with infertility when they are trying to conceive through fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF). One of many options is to get genetic counseling for themselves to assess any risk of passing on inherited disorders to their children.

A gene is part of your DNA, the part that contains code. These codes are like blueprints to your body, passing on traits such as your eye color or other specific physical details. However, they also carry information regarding your biology. They are 100 percent dependent on your heredity.

Genetic counseling and testing, or genetic disease prevention, is a great idea to help couples understand how their genetics combine to impact the genetics of their children. While it isn’t necessary for all couples, it certainly could provide information to anyone who participated in the screen — not the least of which is to identify any inherent dangers present in the genetic codes.

What many couples aren’t sure of is whether they need genetic counseling. To make the decision easier, let’s define a few parameters that might help making the decision to proceed or not easier.

The best candidates to receive genetic counseling when trying to conceive include those in the following groups:

  • Individuals with a known genetic disorder or that have a birth defect themselves
  • Individuals with a family history or a close relative suffering from a condition from an inherited disease
  • Women of advanced maternal age, defined as older than 35

In my professional opinion, these three circumstances are a good place to start when deciding whether to proceed with genetic testing. Another consideration concerns your ethnic heritage. Certain ethnic groups show a propensity for certain genetic conditions as well. These conditions include:

Sickle cell anemia: a disease often described as severe anemia, identified by the production of disc-shaped red blood cells
Ethnic groups identified with a higher risk: African Americans

Thalassemia: a condition known to inhibit the body’s ability to produce red blood cells and hemoglobin needed for a person’s blood stream
Ethnic groups identified with a higher risk: Italian, Greek or Middle Eastern descent

Tay-Sachs disease: a deadly disease that affects the patient’s nervous system
Ethnic groups identified with a higher risk: Jewish people from Central or Eastern European heritage

At this point, genetic counseling is essential for those identified as most at-risk for complications due to known hereditary conditions in their family history. Beyond that, the choice is more a personal one. Many couples appreciate the peace of mind and additional information the test provides, particularly when they are in an IVF cycle. Furthermore, it allows couples to prepare for possible outcomes.

Genetic disease prevention is available as a part of the IVF process here at HRC. For some of our families, the testing we do identifies preventable genetic diseases. For others, it helps to better determine which of their embryos is most likely to thrive, enabling them to transfer fewer embryos and lower the risk of high-order multiples.

Genetic counseling and the related genetic disease prevention screen we provide for many of our couples trying to conceive through IVF are a great way to help you achieve success. What you decide to do in your cycle is your choice. All of us on staff here are happy to answer any questions and make a recommendation based on your specific case. Like always, we will do whatever we can to make your dreams of a family a reality.


“Thalassemia.” 21 April 2015.

“Tay Sachs.” 21 April 2015.

“Sickle-Cell Anemia.” 21 April 2015.

“Genetic Counseling.” 21 April 2015.

Rochman, Bonnie. “Do All Women Need Genetic Testing Before Pregnancy?” 27 October 2011. Web. 21 April 2015.