Many people take great pride in the positive personality attributes they’ve inherited from their parents, whether that be their great sense of humor or their perseverance. But when it comes to our genes, especially those that may be problematic, the feelings may be different. Of course, we have no control over which genes we inherit, and our parents have no control over which genes are passed onto us — and which genes we pass on to our children.
Genetic carrier screening is a new technology that uses a sample of blood to examine your genes for genetic variants associated with inherited genetic disorders. If you are a genetic carrier, you don’t have signs or symptoms of a disorder, but you are at risk of passing the genetic variant on to your child. If your partner is a genetic carrier for the same condition, your child has a 25 percent risk of developing the condition.
Furthermore, if you are a genetic carrier, this means that you inherited the genetic variant from either your mother or father. What does your genetic carrier status mean to your parents? And how do you talk to them about your genetic carrier test results?
First, a Few Things to Consider
Before approaching your parents with your test results, you may want to consider a few questions:
Would your parents want to know that they may be genetic carriers?
Will you choose to share your test results with other family members? If your parent is a carrier, your aunts, uncles, and cousins may also be at risk of being carriers.
Are you comfortable with talking to your family about your test results?
Do your parents and family members have a support system to process emotions that may come up after hearing this news?
It may be difficult to predict how your parents will react to the news of your genetic carrier status and what that means for them. In this article, we’ll review communication techniques for speaking with your parents about unexpected carrier screening results.
Consider Consulting with a Genetic Counselor
If you’re unsure about how to share the news, a genetic counselor may be able to help you. Additionally, a genetic counselor can assist you in understanding what your genetic carrier status means for you, your parents, and other family members.
If you’d like to find a genetic counselor in your area, the National Society of Genetic Counselors offers an online directory of more than 3,000 counselors in the US and Canada.
Decide Which Family Members You Want to Talk To
In addition to telling your parents, you may wish to speak with other members of your family. Your parents may not want to have more children, which means that their risk of passing on the genetic variant is now zero. But your siblings and cousins may find this information very useful. This is because they may be more likely to be planning a family or want to plan a family in the future.
Prepare Learning Materials
Your parents and family members may have questions regarding the information you share with them. You don’t have to have all of the answers. In fact, it’s advised that people seek out their own information and reach out to a healthcare professional if they have specific questions. But after talking with your family members, you may choose to print out or email some learning materials you found useful to get them started.
When Is the Right Time to Share the News?
If you decide to share your genetic carrier test results, the right time is when you feel the most comfortable. Keep in mind that some couples may choose to get tested before planning a pregnancy — if you know that one of your family members is planning a pregnancy, consider telling them first.