If you and your partner struggle with conceiving your first child, you’re not alone. According to UCLA researchers, more than one out of every ten couples suffers from infertility issues. The incidence of birth defects remains a source of concern as the consequences can be devastating and life-long.
Fortunately, there are more fertility options today than ever. In Vitro Fertilization or IVF is one standard treatment you might explore, in which eggs are fertilized outside the body.
Along with IVF, families are now using Preimplantation Genetic Testing to help ensure a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby (PGT). It’s a way of minimizing your baby’s health risks beginning at the embryo stage. And it even enables you to consider gender selection – all right here in Riverside County.
While most know that genetic disorders exist, not everyone is aware of the physical and emotional challenges they cause for newborn infants and their parents.
Some people know that a disease exists in their family because of its toll on their loved ones. Others, however, may unknowingly carry the genetic mutations that can cause a disorder in a newborn child. Fortunately, PGT allows us to find genetic mutations before an embryo is implanted.
Here are some of the more prevalent genetic disorders that PGT Testing can help you screen for:
Cystic Fibrosis – A condition in which the body collects thick mucus that eventually interrupts vital organs like the lungs. It’s also known to cause chronic infections and limit lifespan.
Sickle Cell Anemia – A genetic disorder that disproportionately affects African Americans in which the body’s red blood cells are misshapen. This can seriously affect oxygen delivery to tissues. In young children, it can be life-threatening.
Tay-Sachs Disease – A disease where the body lacks essential enzymes causing fat to build up on nerve cells, including those in the brain. It’s usually fatal by age 5. This condition primarily (but not exclusively) affects families with Ashkenazi Jewish backgrounds.
Gaucher Disease – A disease that causes liver and spleen enlargement, anemia, and brain damage.
How Genetic Disease Transmission Works
Now that you’re familiar with the severity of some genetic conditions, let’s explore how they’re transmitted.
Each of our cells contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. One pair determines our gender (XX is female and XY is male) and the other 22 pairs of autosomes code for everything else about us like height, eye color, etc. These chromosomes also can contain the mutations that cause genetic diseases.
To pass on a genetic disease to their child, both parents must either have the condition or be a carrier.
If both parents are carriers, there is a 25% chance the child will have the disease, a 50% chance the child will be a carrier, and a 25% chance the child will neither be a carrier nor have the disease.
On the other hand, if one of the parents has the genetic disease, there is a 50% chance the child will have the condition and a 50% chance the child will be only a carrier.
The Value of PGT Testing
If you and your partner are already considering IVF, you’re probably aware that part of the process entails fertilizing multiple eggs in a lab. You and your doctor then will choose one or more embryos to implant in the uterus to begin the pregnancy process.
PGT allows you and your partner to test your embryos for the genetic diseases mentioned and others, before implantation. Obviously, if an embryo is found to be affected by a genetic condition, or is chromosomally abnormal, it will not be transferred into the uterus. As a result, you can choose which embryos to bring to full-term pregnancy. And by doing so, you can ensure that your baby will not inherit the genes for a genetic disorder.
Reduced Chance of Miscarriage
Sadly, miscarriage occurs in up to 25% of pregnancies, dashing the hopes of many parents-to-be. With PGT, the healthiest embryos that are most likely to survive the gestational process are transferred, minimizing the chances of the devastation of a miscarriage.
Prevention of Multiple Pregnancy
Although we all love our children, not all of us desire to have twins or triplets. Furthermore, multiple pregnancy carries substantial increased risk for both the mother and the babies. The transfer of multiple fertilized eggs has traditionally been part of the IVF process, to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. With PGT, parents can therefore select the healthiest embryo for a single embryo transfer, substantially decreasing the chances and risks of multiple pregnancies.
Gender Selection (If Desired)
In addition, PGT allows you to know the gender of each embryo, prior to the transfer. With gender selection, parents can therefore choose the configuration of their family as they desire, known as family balancing.
Overall, PGT can ease some parents’ minds by guaranteeing their baby won’t have certain genetic conditions. And even if a couple decides to birth a child at risk for a disorder, PGT informs them of that risk so they can plan accordingly.
How PGT Testing Works
First, a blood or saliva sample is taken from you and your partner and tested to determine which genetic diseases you may be carriers of. This testing is called carrier screening.
After eggs have been harvested and fertilized with sperm, the embryos are allowed to grow in the laboratory for 5-6 days, until they reach what is called the blastocyst stage. At this time, our skilled lab technicians perform a biopsy of some of the outer cells of the embryo. These cells are then tested for a variety of diseases. Your embryos are frozen after the biopsy so each embryo can be tested. You and your doctor can select which embryo(s) to transfer based upon the results obtained. The resulting Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) can be scheduled at a convenient time for the patient and only a normal embryo will be used in the transfer.
Common Questions About PGT Testing
What diseases can PGT detect?
While some of the most common are Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Tay-Sachs, and Gaucher disease, there are many other conditions PGT can detect.
Does PGT hurt the embryo?
Fewer than 5% of embryos are damaged from the freezing or thawing, Very rarely, embryos are damaged in the biopsy process.
How long does it take to get results?
The timing of results varies from 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the tests selected.
Genetic Counseling and Support
If the prospect of IVF and PGT seem intimidating, rest assured. The best fertility clinics work with genetic counselors. These experts know the fertility procedures and the practical and emotional challenges families face when making decisions. After all, in choosing IVF and PGT, you and your partner are making life-altering choices. Genetic counselors have helped multiple couples like yourselves navigate the process.
In addition, it also helps to work with a reproductive genetics specialist that takes the time to educate you on the entire process and be open to your questions.
While IVF, PGT testing, and other fertility treatments are not inexpensive, you and your partner have options. Dreams Fertility in Riverside County offers multiple programs to assist patients. Some of these include:
- In-House Financing
- 0% interest loan programs
- Medication Discounts
- IVF treatment package rates
- Special rates for teachers, police officers, active military, and firefighters
Finding Fertility Support in Riverside County
Located in the Coachella Valley, Dreams Fertility offers a wide variety of care options to assist you on your fertility journey. From IVF and PGT to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), egg and sperm donation, and LGBTQ care, Dreams is here to help. Reproductive genetics specialists Dr. Luis Murrain and Dr. Joel Batzofin and their caring and supportive staff are waiting to help. Set up your in-person or telemedicine consultation today and see where dreams are born!
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.