Welfare Organization to cover genetic testing costs

September 17, 2018

TEHRAN – The cost of genetic testing for families having a child with birth defects or couples at risk, will be fully covered by the Welfare Organization, Fatemeh Abbasi an official with the Organization has said.

Genetic testing costs about 50 million rials (nearly $1,200), which is completely paid by the Organization, she stated, ISNA reported on Sunday.

During the first five months of the year (March 22- August 22), over 600 abortion permits have been issued for the prevention of severe birth defects, she added.

She went on to say that last year, some 7,100 people aged 15-25 have undergone genetic screening, and some 1,248 pregnancies diagnosed with genetic disorders, have been terminated.

“With regard to the fact that some 25 to 30 thousand children are being born with congenital disabilities in the country annually we decided to make genetic counselling a mandatory requirement for couples before officiating their marriage.”

Pointing to premarital genetic counselling being obligatory for all couples since last year, she noted that last year, premarital genetic screening was conducted for 111,000 couples (one-sixth of all marriages recorded).

Families having children born with congenital disabilities and couples suspected to having children with genetic disorders in future pregnancies, can undergo genetic testing completely free of charge, Abbasi concluded.

In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times Iran’s Welfare Organization director Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey said that all couples are required to obtain a permission before officiating their marriage by filling out questionnaires designed and administered by professional healthcare providers and in case the couples are at risk they will be referred to genetic counselling services to take tests to assess any potential risks for future pregnancies if need be.

With regard to the fact that some 25 to 30 thousand children are being born with congenital disabilities in the country annually we decided to make genetic counselling a mandatory requirement for couples before officiating their marriage, he said, adding that as giving birth to children with birth defects could prove costly both for parents and heath care sector we try to encourage couples to take the tests and in case they cannot afford the tests the welfare organization will cover the costs.

Genetic counselling is the process through which knowledge about the genetic aspects of illnesses is shared by trained professionals with those who are at an increased risk or either having a heritable disorder or of passing it on to their unborn offspring. A genetic counsellor provides information on the inheritance of illnesses and their recurrence risks, World Health Organization explains. 

What are the benefits of genetic counseling?

According to Pomona Valley Health Centers genetic counseling benefits couples in many ways, including:

Increased understanding

Genetic screening tests can help calculate the likelihood that the fetus might be born with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease or sickle cell anemia. Genetic counselors will effectively communicate this information and help couples understand any potential benefits of preventative measures to individuals and their family members.

Better peace of mind

For parents-to-be who are aware of a family history of a particular disease or condition, it can be cathartic to learn that they do not carry the gene.

Early intervention

In some cases, genetic testing can uncover a hidden gene mutation that puts you at risk of developing a deadly disease. Counselors help you understand the cause of this condition and what you can do to prevent it from developing and/or spreading.

Appropriate testing

A genetic counselor can help couples determine what tests are most appropriate for your pregnancy. It can be especially important if any standard prenatal screening test yields an abnormal result.

Decision-making

Counselors can also help you understand testing options, diagnosis and the underlying causes of the genetic disorders, as well as guide you through any decision-making regarding genetic testing or family planning.

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