‘ So glad to have had the opportunity to participate as a couple about to embark on our journey to parenthood. I wouldn’t have thought to ask many of the questions discussed, so it really educated me about what one should start thinking about.’  Couple in their late 20’s.
‘So informative and interesting. Having been through the process of genetic screening, counselling and PGD myself, it is so important that couples are informed at the beginning of their journeys. Well done. Looking forward to next week.’  Couple in their early 40’s

The AJFN hosted the first webinar of a two part ‘Pathways to Parenthood’ series on Sunday June 14. Our experts for the night were Dr Debra Kennedy, geneticist at IVF Australia and Director of MotherSafe at the Royal Hospital for Women and Dr Lesley Andrews head of the Hereditary Cancer Clinic at Prince of Wales Hospital. 

To watch a recording of the talk please click here

Dr Debra Kennedy opened the evening by discussing how to optimise your health before trying to conceive. Some of the aspects discussed were which supplements to take, lifestyle factors including diet, weight and even coffee, vaccinations, blood tests and the role of a full medical check. Chronic medical conditions and their medications were also covered and the importance of speaking to MotherSafe or a specialist to discuss the risks and benefits of stopping or changing therapy was emphasised. The value of men supporting their partner in maintaining a healthy lifestyle was reiterated and next weeks webinar will feature more useful information targeted to males.

The focus then shifted to genetics and the importance of knowing your family history and having a conversation with your GP if you have any concerns, so they can refer you to the appropriate specialist. The various ways genetic conditions can be passed from parents to their children were explained.  Different genetic screening options including the current Jewish Community Screening program and their advantages and disadvantages were explored. Mackenzie’s Mission a new government funded research initiative which screens couples for 1700 genetic conditions for free was introduced, the benefit of this project is that if a couple is found to be at-risk of having an affected child they are eligible for 1 free cycle of IVF with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Dr Lesley Andrews continued the genetics theme with an overview of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and their role in development of cancers of the breast, ovary and prostate. Whilst Jewish families may not always have a strong cancer history either due to family dispersion or loss during the Holocaust, these genes are found in 1/40 Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardi Jews can be affected as well. Males are equally important in the inheritance of the BRCA mutation as they can pass it on to their children. Testing for BRCA mutations is run through Wolper Hospital and people who are interested receive further information online and if they agree to testing perform a simple swab at home which is sent for analysis. The various management options should a swab return positive for the mutation were explained both in terms of the person with the mutation and its implication on future generations.  Affected couples can apply for support from the AJFN should they choose to use PGD to prevent the mutation being passed down.

This webinar was packed full of information relevant for individuals and couples of all ages and is well worth watching. For further details check out these resources:

MotherSafe 02 93826539, www.mothersafe.org.au

Food standards www.foodstandards.gov.au

Centre for Genetics Education www.genetics.edu.au

Get Healthy NSW www.gethealthnsw.com.au

Mackenzie’s Mission www.mackenziesmission.org.au

Jene Screen www.jenescreen.com.au

The AJFN looks forward to you joining us online for part two of the series on Sunday June 21st at 7.30pm.

Special thank you to the ‘Friends of Wolper’ for co-hosting the event together with us and the Wolper Jewish Hospital Health Foundation’s for their ongoing support.

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