I’m delighted to share with you my latest Facebook Live, all about the most important wedding planning task that might not have made it onto your checklist: Jewish genetic carrier screening. While genetic screening certainly isn’t as much fun as, say, cake tasting, if you’re planning on having children it’s one of the most important steps you can take in securing your family’s future.
On this Live, I spoke 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. Hillary spoke with us for the first time this past July, and we had such an informative, empowering conversation about what JScreen does, how genetic carrier screening works, and what it all means for Jewish and Jew-ish couples.
We wanted to make sure all the newly engaged couples are able to benefit from her knowledge, so we brought her back for another session – where she went through the basics, answered questions from the audience, and filled us in on some recent updates at JScreen, like their new cancer susceptibility panel.
Hillary strongly believes that genetic screening should be an essential item on every couple’s wedding to-do list, and now that I’ve gotten to know her and JScreen, so do I!
What is genetic carrier screening?
Hillary began by explaining what exactly genetic carrier screening is – and what it’s not. First, it’s not a diagnostic test. JScreen’s reproductive panel won’t tell you if you yourself are at high risk of developing various diseases. Rather, JScreen’s testing lets people know if they are healthy carriers of genetic diseases who have mutations that they could potentially pass on to their future children.
Who should get screened?
The short answer: everyone planning on having children! While genetic screening is sometimes thought of as being relevant only to Ashkenazi Jews, the truth is that anyone, regardless of background, can be a carrier of one or more genetic diseases (and even as far as Jewish genetic diseases go, plenty affect Sephardi and Mizrahi populations). JScreen‘s pan-ethnic panel tests for all kinds of genetic diseases, not just those common among Jews – so it’s absolutely smart to get screened even if one or both of you are not ethnically Jewish.
Your parents may have done testing themselves, but even if that’s the case it’s still important to do it yourself before starting a family. So many more diseases are testable today than even five years ago – even if you yourself were screened a number of years ago, it’s worth considering retesting with JScreen. You can always look at the list of all the diseases they currently screen for and compare it to what you’ve already been screened for.