Couple-based expanded carrier screening provided by general practitioners to couples in the Dutch general population: psychological outcomes and reproductive intentions.
Birnie E., Schuurmans J., Plantinga M., Abbott KM., Fenwick A., Lucassen A., Berger MY., van Langen IM., Ranchor AV.
PurposeThe aim of expanded preconception carrier screening (ECS) is to inform any couple wishing to conceive about their chances of having children with severe autosomal or X-linked recessive conditions. Responsible implementation of ECS as reproductive genetic screening in routine care requires assessment of benefits and harms. We examined the psychological outcomes of couple-based ECS for 50 autosomal recessive (AR) conditions provided by general practitioners (GPs) to couples from the Dutch general population.MethodsDutch GPs invited 4,295 women aged 18-40. We examined anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, STAI-6), worry, decisional conflict (DCS) over time in participants declining GP counseling or attending GP counseling with/without testing.ResultsOne hundred ninety couples participated; 130 attended counseling, of whom 117 proceeded with testing. No carrier couples were identified. Before counseling, worry (median 6.0) and anxiety (mean 30-34) were low and lower than the population reference (36.4), although some individuals reported increased anxiety or worry. At follow-up, test acceptors reported less anxiety than test decliners (mean 29 vs. 35); differences in anxiety after testing compared to before counseling were not meaningful. Most participants (90%) were satisfied with their decision (not) to undergo testing.ConclusionSome individuals reported temporarily clinically relevant distress. Overall, the psychological outcomes are acceptable and no barrier to population-wide implementation.