'Genes versus children': if the goal is parenthood, are we using the optimal approach?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


First medical contact for couples trying for a child will usually emphasise the array of assistance available to 'help them have their own child', usually with options involving ART, after diagnosis. For many poorer prognosis couples, this means repetitive unsuccessful cycles of invasive and stressful treatment. What is sometimes lost at this stage is a reflection on the likelihood of success of different options, which may lead patients to focus on hoping for their own 'genetic' progeny, but failing to consider the alternative and potentially more successful other options, including donation and adoption, for achieving parenthood of a child. Factors not only such as female age but also advanced requirements such as preimplantation genetic testing or even mitochondrial replacement therapies all have reduced chances of success but further tend to reinforce the importance of a genetic link. The financial, physical and psychosocial burden associated with cumulative failure also lead to a higher probability of dropout and consequently an even higher probability of remaining in involuntary childlessness. We advocate formulation of a detailed roadmap for discussion of parenthood, with reference explanation to genetics and epigenetics, which gives due consideration to the psychological effects from the beginning to end of the treatment process, alongside a balanced consideration of the likelihood of treatment success and discussion of other options. Only when we provide patients with the service of a clear and transparent discussion of these matters, we will really realise the true potential of our field, which may then be better considered as assisted families.


Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2020