PURPOSE: The 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.
METHODS: Dutch 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.
RESULTS: One 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.
CONCLUSION: Some individuals reported temporarily clinically relevant distress. Overall, the psychological outcomes are acceptable and no barrier to population-wide implementation.