Premarital Genetic Testing Mandatory

One of the most important causes of genetic disorders in newborns is consanguineous marriages. Currently, the rate of marriage within families is 12.6% in Iran, with the highest in Zanjan Province at 49.6%
Premarital Genetic  Testing Mandatory
Premarital Genetic  Testing Mandatory

Every day, 80 infants with some form of disability are born in the country. That equals to over 30,000 new disabilities per year.

“Premarital genetic testing is the key to reducing the number of birth defects,” said Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei, head of the State Welfare Organization.

“Premarital counseling can also help increase the quality of married life as well as consolidate family structures,” he noted.

Genetic testing before marriage has been made mandatory in the next economic, social and cultural development plan (2016-2021) which will come into effect in March (one year late), reports IRNA.

“As per article 90 of the sixth plan, all couples wanting to marry must fill out the relevant form at the nearest certified lab, and undergo the necessary tests as recommended by specialists,” Bandpei added.

The tests are mandatory for couples planning marriage, and screen for a number of diseases, including sickle-cell anemia and HIV. 

The aim is to reduce the risk of parents passing on illnesses or genetic disorders to their children. Getting screened before pregnancy can give prospective couples reassurance that they are not a carrier, or can help them make an informed choice for pregnancy. 

If it turns out that both are carriers, couples can be prepared for what it means to have a baby with the genetic condition, choose to learn about certain prenatal tests to check whether the baby can be healthy, or consider other options like egg or sperm donation or adoption. 

Most genetic diseases are known as “recessive disorders,” which means that each parent needs to pass along an affected gene to the baby in order for the child to be affected. In other words, if you screen positive for a genetic abnormality but your spouse does not, your child will not inherit the condition. And even if both screen positive, there’s only a 25% chance that the baby will have the disease.

“Normally, about 60% of couples end their engagement if the results indicate genetic disorders,” Bandpei said. 

“Different families take this advice in different ways, but couples should be given an informed choice,” he stressed.

  Consanguineous Marriage

One of the most important causes of disorders in newborns is marriage within families or cousins. Studies shows marriage between first cousins more than doubles the chance of having a baby with potentially life-threatening birth defects. 

A link between cousin marriage and health problems, including heart and lung problems and recognized syndromes such as Down’s, linked to genetic inheritance, has been observed in communities around the world.

Currently, the rate of marriage within families is 12.6% in Iran, with the highest in Zanjan Province at 49.6%.

“Additionally, families with a child suffering from a disability must undergo genetic testing before having their second child,” he said. The costs of genetic testing will be paid by the SWO if the family cannot afford it. 

The program’s national network includes 416 genetic counseling centers supported by special teams comprising 400 counselors and 390 assisting specialists across universities of medical sciences.

The number of children with genetic defects in Iran has increased by 5% during 2013-2014. Around 70,000 children, among the nearly 1.5 million births every year in the past there years, are born with genetic defects or inherited disorders. 

This has prompted local authorities in every province to take remedial measures. Students of elementary school must also go through a set of tests and screening for any potential disability or disorder. 

“There are 13 centers performing the tests in Zanjan alone,” said Mohamamd Hassan Azim-Araghi, deputy for diagnosis and treatment at the Education Ministry.

“So far, nearly 1.5 million students have been tested,” he said, Mehr News Agency reported.

Preventive genetic services based on population screening are now an integral part of maternal and child health programs in many parts of the world. Mass screening and genetic counseling have been carried out widely, but they are not as effective as antenatal screening programs. 

Diagnostic tests can actually detect many genetic conditions caused by chromosome abnormalities. They usually can tell prospective parents whether or not their fetus has a particular genetic problem.

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