Understanding genetic carrier screening for prospective parents

Although most babies are born healthy, having a baby means taking a risk. There are no guarantees that a child will be born healthy.

Some people have a genetic makeup that increases their risk of having a child with health problems. Today, tests are available that offer parents-to-be an opportunity to explore some of the risks that genetics may pose for their unborn children.

These tests are called genetic carrier screening tests. They're designed to identify people who carry one copy of an altered gene that leads to a specific disease. Although these people carry the altered gene, they aren't affected by it, because two altered copies of the gene must be present before the disease develops. Genetic carrier screening can be done on prospective parents before a baby is conceived. It can also be done during pregnancy to help determine whether further testing during the pregnancy may be considered. With this information, potential parents can weigh the risks and make decisions.

This decision guide explains what kinds of tests are available to examine potential health risks that may be included in your genetic code. It explains what those tests can — and can't — tell you.

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