Issues to consider

It's up to you to decide if you want to pursue genetic carrier screening. Consider these questions as you make that decision:

• Is there a family history of any certain condition?

• Are you in a racial or ethnic group that puts you at higher risk of being a carrier for a certain condition?

• How often does the condition occur in the higher-risk population?

• How severe is the condition likely to be?

• Will you use the information if you find that you and your partner are carriers of the same genetic condition? If yes, how?

• How might you respond emotionally to the testing process?

• Will the test be covered by your insurance? If not, will you be able to afford the testing? Be aware that tests used for purposes other than diagnosing a condition may not be covered by insurance.

• Will the time it takes to complete the test give you adequate time to make decisions regarding beginning or continuing a pregnancy?

• Would discussing the options and issues related to genetic carrier screening with a genetic counselor or other health care provider be of benefit to you?

What's the difference between a congenital disorder and a genetic disorder?

A congenital disorder is a disorder that a baby is born with. A genetic disorder is one that's inherited, passed from one generation to the next through the family's genetic makeup.

A baby may be born with a disorder that's both present at birth (congenital) and caused by his or her genetic makeup (genetic). However, not all congenital disorders are genetic. For example, cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder that affects the nervous system's ability to control motion. Because it's a congenital disorder but not a genetic one, cerebral palsy can't be identified through genetic carrier screening.

Genetic disorders — such as Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and others discussed in this decision guide — can be identified through genetic carrier screening tests. It's important to understand that genetic testing can uncover some, but not all, possible birth defects.

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