Clinical Review

2020 Update on fertility

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Expanded vs panethnic screening. Furthermore, although sequencing technology has made "expanded carrier screening" for several hundred conditions, simultaneous to and independent of ethnicity and family history, more easily available and affordable, ethnic-specific and panethnic screening for a more limited number of conditions are still acceptable approaches. Having said this, when the first partner screened is identified to be a carrier, his/her reproductive partners must be offered next-generation sequencing to identify less common disease-causing variants.4

A cautionary point to consider when expanded carrier screening panels are requested is the significant variability among commercial laboratories with regard to the conditions included in their panels. In addition, consider the absence of a well-defined or predictable phenotype for some of the included conditions.

Perhaps the most important matter when it comes to genetic carrier screening is to have a standard counseling approach that is persistently followed and offers the opportunity for individuals to know about their genetic testing options and available reproductive choices, including the use of donor gametes, preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic disease (PGT-M, formerly known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD), prenatal testing, and pregnancy management options. For couples and/or individuals who decide to proceed with an affected pregnancy, earlier diagnosis can assist with postnatal management.

Medicolegal responsibility. Genetic carrier screening also is of specific relevance to the field of fertility medicine and assisted reproductive technology (ART) as a potential liability issue. Couples and individuals who are undergoing fertility treatment with in vitro fertilization (IVF) for a variety of medical or personal reasons are a specific group that certainly should be offered genetic carrier screening, as they have the option of "adding on" PGT-M (PGD) to their existing treatment plan at a fraction of the cost and treatment burden that would have otherwise been needed if they were not undergoing IVF. After counseling, some individuals and couples may ultimately opt out of genetic carrier screening. The counseling discussion needs to be clearly documented in the medical chart.

The preconception period is the perfect time to have a discussion about genetic carrier screening; it offers the opportunity for timely interventions if desired by the couples or individuals.

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