I’m so excited to share with you my latest Facebook Live with Hillary Kener Regelman, Director of National Outreach at JScreen, a US-based not-for-profit at-home education and carrier screening program for Jewish genetic diseases.Jewish genetic screening is SUCH an important topic for every couple thinking of having children, and I’m so glad Hillary was able to help demystify the process.
I admit it isn’t something I knew much about before speaking with Hillary, but after chatting with her I see both how essential testing is to every couple’s family planning process AND how easy and accessible JScreen has made it. They’re on a mission to put genetic screening on every prospective parent’s radar and to clear up the misconceptions so many of us have about the process – and after chatting with Hillary, I’m totally convinced that, as she says, genetic screening should be an essential item on every couple’s wedding checklist.
What is genetic carrier screening?
Hillary started off by explaining exactly what genetic carrier screening is – and isn’t. It’s not a diagnostic test. Rather, JScreen’s testing lets people know if they are healthy carriers of genetic diseases who have mutations that they could pass on to their children.
Who should get screened?
While genetic screening is sometimes thought of as something relevant only to Ashkenazi Jews, the truth is that everyone planning on having children should get screened, regardless of background (and, as far as Jewish genetic diseases go, there are plenty that affect Sephardi and Mizrahi populations too).
JScreen offers a pan-ethnic panel, testing for all kinds of genetic diseases, not just those common among Jews – so it’s very much worth screening if one or both of you are not ethnically Jewish.
And even if your parents did testing, it’s still important to do it yourself before starting a family, since so many more diseases are testable today than even five years ago (which means that if you yourself were screened a number of years ago, it’s worth considering retesting with JScreen).