IVF and DNA Testing
In vitro fertilization (IVF) offers options to people with a known inherited condition in their families.
Two major reasons to consider IVF are:
Difficulty conceiving (See Resources for IVF and Fertility.)
Testing embryos to avoid a serious genetic disease
Embryos can be tested for these genetic conditions:
Extra or missing copies or pieces of chromosomes can prevent an embryo from developing into a healthy baby. Chromosomes are the packages of DNA found inside cells and are the blueprint for how a baby develops. Many, but not all, chromosomal conditions cause severe learning problems, birth defects, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Known inherited conditions in the family
When a couple has a family history of an inherited condition, sometimes embryos can be tested for that particular condition. Testing may be able to show which embryos have inherited the condition and which did not. The couple may then choose to transfer the unaffected embryos into the woman’s uterus.
The fertilized egg grows until a few cells can be removed from the embryo using a special tool under a powerful microscope. The lab then studies the DNA inside the cell.
How testing is done
Not all genetic diseases can be identified in embryos. If you have a particular condition in your family, you will want to ask whether it can be found in an embryo.
Doctors recommend testing the pregnancy later to confirm the results of embryo testing. Sometimes the cells pulled from the embryo differ from the embryo’s other cells. This doesn’t happen often but can lead to differences between prenatal and embryo testing.
Health insurance will sometimes cover IVF and embryo diagnosis if there is a known disorder in the family. Check your own policy for specifics.