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Reasons to consider genetic screening before trying to conceive

You should not worry about passing a genetic disorder to your babyThe hope for every parent is to have a healthy child.

Over the years conception and pregnancy has become an institution of constant reformation. The introduction of many risk-reducing exercises has seen a dramatic increase in healthy conception, and as such a considerable decrease in babies born with physical and intellectual differences.

Folate intake, elimination of certain foods, smoking and alcohol, having a healthy diet and exercise are a few examples of strategies that have assisted in this reduction and served to benefit many couples in their quest for reassurance towards pregnancy preparation.

At present, in the midst of a genetic revolution, advances in DNA testing has seen the introduction of easily accessible and affordable genetic carrier screening tests, which aim to further help reduce risk. One of these is the Tiny Letters test by Australian-based company Life Letters.

Life Letters genetic counsellor, Emma Harrison, answers some of the most common questions related to preconception genetic carrier testing.

Common questions related to preconception genetic carrier testing.

What is a preconception genetic screening test?

Children inherit their traits from their parents. However, they sometimes inherit features that neither parent appears to have. These are known as recessive traits.

A carrier screen lets you know if you are at risk of passing a recessive genetic trait onto your child which may cause physical or intellectual disabilities. While carrier testing can’t guarantee a healthy child, it can reduce risk and give you reassurance, or help a couple make the best decision for their family with more information.

genetics traits chart

To be at risk of passing it on to your child, both you and your partner need to be carriers of the same recessive genetic disorder. If this occurs, there is a 1 in 4 chance that your child will be born with that disorder.

Why should I do a preconception test genetic test?

If you’re trying to conceive or planning to one day, you’re probably going to do everything in your power to increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. There are lots of things you can do to improve those chances even before conceiving. Advances in DNA testing now means an increasing number of couples are choosing to have a genetic carrier screen test as part of this preparation.

What will the test tell me?

These tests let you know if you may be at risk of passing a recessive genetic disorder onto your child. They can provide peace-of-mind and help a couple make the best decision for their family. Tiny Letters tests whether patients are carriers for any one of 140+ heritable genetic conditions, including Cystic Fibrosis, Thalassaemia, Tay-Sachs disease and Fragile X syndrome.

There is no family history of any conditions in my family, does that mean I still need to do the test?

It’s common to not know that you are a carrier of a recessive genetic disorder as it has no identifiable impact on your own health. However, on average, most people will be a carrier of at least one genetic variation. For example, when the Queensland Cystic Fibrosis group interviewed parents who had a child with Cystic Fibrosis, they found 80% were unaware they were carriers.

With a genetic carrier screening test you can now discover whether you’re a carrier of many disorders, so you can know if you’re at risk of passing a disorder on to your child.

Are trained professionals, like genetic counsellors, available to help me?

This depends on which test you choose to do. At Life Letters, we appreciate that genetics can be a little confusing or that you may be worried about the results. This is why we have genetic counsellors available to travel the journey of testing with you and support you through understanding what the Life Letters results mean for you and your family.

How do I do one of these tests?

At Life Letters the process is simple. The test can be ordered online and completed in the comfort of your own home.

  • Step 1. Order online. The test can be ordered below. No doctor’s referral is required. If you would like to speak to a medical professional first, you can talk to one of the Life Letters’ genetic counsellors at any time via phone or Live Chat.
  • Step 2. Conducted at home. The test kit is sent directly to your house. It only requires a saliva sample, so the process is painless and easy.
  • Step 3. Results from a medical professional. A trained genetic counsellor will explain your results and answer any questions you may have. All counselling is included in the price of the test.

How much will this test cost, and does Medicare or my private health insurance cover any of the costs?

Unfortunately, Medicare and private health insurance companies do not offer rebates for any genetic testing. However, at Life Letters we have worked hard to reduce the cost and make the pricing as accessible as possible.

The individual’s test is A$540 and includes a test kit for a single person. If you are not found to be a carrier it is unlikely you could pass a disorder on to your child, regardless of your partner’s carrier status. Otherwise, if you are found to be a carrier, we recommend having your partner tested.

The couple’s test is A$990 and includes two test kits – one for each partner. Getting tested together is the quickest way of discovering if your pregnancy might be at risk and avoids the need for any potential follow-up carrier testing. This test is recommended for those who want to know more about their child’s potential carrier status, or want the greatest peace-of-mind, given the reduced level of residual risk.


This blog post is sponsored by Life Letters.

Tiny Letters can identify if you are a carrier of 149 different genetic disorders. For more information on Life Letters and the Tiny Letters preconception carrier screening test visit, call 1300 538 837 or email There is also a Live Chat function on the website, where one of the friendly staff is available to help you Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm.

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