Being afflicted with a health issue and witnessing your child being afflicted with it can be quite distressing. Everyone desires a healthy child in their life. But sometimes, a child can get birth defects and chronic diseases from parents due to genetic mutations. Such couples with a genetic ailment are hesitant to plan a pregnancy out of fear of passing on a deadly disease or a lifelong illness to the unborn child.
A genetic ailment can result from any irregularity in a person’s genetic structure. It can be mild to severe depending on a single gene’s basic DNA mutation or a chromosomal or set of chromosomes’ gross abnormalities.
Some genetic abnormalities can be acquired spontaneously as a result of mutations or changes in a single gene or combination of genes, or be inherited from parents as they run in families from generation to generation. It may be caused on by other factors such as environment, pollutants, exposure to specific chemicals, radiation, etc. Genetic defects in a male, female, or both can result in infertility either by implantation failure or miscarriage, as well as birth abnormalities in the offspring.
Some common genetic disorders are Down’s Syndrome, Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Cystic Fibrosis etc.
IVF: A ray of hope
Individuals/ Partners with serious genetic disorders like Down’s Syndrome, Thalassemia, Sickle Cell disease etc. have a high risk of passing the disease to their child. Thousands of such couples now have hope, thanks to the IVF process.
For couples who pose a high risk of transferring fatal disorders to the unborn child, IVF is a remarkable treatment. For instance, if both parents have significant thalassemia, their child is more likely to develop the condition. However, if they are undergoing IVF, it is feasible to determine if the child will be affected by the condition or not. You can decrease the likelihood of passing on genetic disorders to the child by only using healthy chromosomes in fertilisation.
How is it possible?
Through a technique named ‘Embryo Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis’ genetic profiling can be achieved and it is easier to take steps accordingly. An embryo produced through IVF is examined for genetic abnormalities, before implantation into the uterus during an IVF cycle, with the help of Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) which examines embryos for single-gene and chromosomal abnormalities.
The generated embryos can be screened for a certain genetic mutation after a few days, and only unaffected embryos may be placed into the uterus. PGD not only decreases the chances of passing genetic disease but also increases the possibilities of a successful pregnancy. Additionally, PGD prevents the need to terminate or abort foetuses with significant problems.
We receive a decent amount of patients who are interested in IVF procedures to get a healthy baby fearing that they may pass on the genetic problem to their baby. However, there is still a certain population that has to be made aware of IVF + PGT and its potential benefits.
For a healthy pregnancy, consult your doctor before planning pregnancy if any of the diseases run in the family. We suggest such couples to undergo pre-genetic tests to assess the risk of transmitting the disease to the child. Also, regular prenatal tests are very important when it comes to diagnosing genetic problems at the right stage. That is why we encourage couples to visit their gynecologists on assigned dates to keep a tab on the healthy growth of the baby.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.