Hereditary diseases and child wish

Exploring motives, considerations, and the (joint) decision-making process of genetically at-risk couples


Couples who are at risk of transmitting a genetic disease to their offspring may face difficult challenges regarding reproductive decision-making. Deciding if, and how, to purse their child wish can be a demanding process. This study aims to describe the reproductive joint decision-making process of genetically at-risk couples. A qualitative study was conducted with 16 couples (N=31) at risk of transmitting a genetic disease to their offspring and who received genetic counseling. Most couples were not aware of all available reproductive options in the Netherlands. A variety of motives was reported with almost all couples expressing a preference towards a reproductive option in which the child is genetically related to both parents. Only a few couples considered other options such as the use of donor gametes, adoption, and foster parenting. All couples indicated that they had multiple conversations to reach a mutually supported reproductive decision. Several carriers reported feelings of guilt and in some couples, the woman appeared to have a greater impact in the decision-making process as she should carry a pregnancy and should undergo medical treatments. This study provides insight in the extensive decision-making process of genetically at-risk couples and the role of both partners in this process. These findings can guide the development of genetic counseling (e.g., increase awareness of available reproductive options) and decision support for these couples.

Journal of Community Genetics
Thomas Gültzow
Thomas Gültzow
Assistant Professor Societal Transition & Behaviour Change

I am a passionate researcher in the field of behaviour and decision making, specialising in informed decision making, behaviour change, and the influence of digital communication and interventions.