Once upon an apartment, I sliced my toe open while trying to piece together an Ikea dresser. The next day, I had swollen lymph nodes and, despite my recent furniture-induced trauma (thanks a lot, Sweden), WebMD had me convinced I had developed Hodgkin’s Disease. Forget the mangled limb.
We’ve all experienced the pangs of the typical cold or cough and then raced into the depths of the internet to eventually (and falsely) discover we’re suffering from an illness that hasn’t existed since Constantinople was a thing.
We fight the good fight to stay healthy. We can work out, take our vitamins, and self-diagnose all day long to become pinnacles of well-being, but 1 in 4 Ashkenazi Jews carry at least 1 of 19 different genes for diseases like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher disease, and Bloom syndrome. Although being a carrier for one of these diseases means you don’t actually have the disease and its symptoms, it becomes a concern when the time comes to make some additions to your family (read: bubelehs).
The parents of a child that has one of these diseases are both healthy “carriers” of the same disease gene. Their children receive a double dose of the gene and may actually have the disease. Enter JScreen. Based out of Emory University’s Department of Human Genetics in Atlanta, JScreen was created as a nationwide, community-based public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases.
The test analyzes genetic markers for up to 80 different diseases, 19+ of which are predominant in the Jewish community.
It’s actually a really simple process and only takes a few minutes once you receive your kit. All you do is head to the JScreen website (http://www.jscreen.com) to request an at-home saliva test that is sent right to your door. Then, you spit into the tube, seal it up, and mail off your sample. After it’s processed by a CLIAA-certified laboratory, you’ll be contacted with your results. If a person or couple’s risk is elevated, licensed genetic counselors address their results, options, and resources to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. JScreen is especially accurate as well, detecting nearly two times as many carriers in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent compared with the general population. Even more, the screening usually doesn’t exceed $99 for people with medical insurance and, in some cases, is even less.
In the age of WebMD, we’re hyper responsible about our health and well-being—especially when we’re trying to get pregnant. So, in the midst of prepping for pregnancy with prenatal yoga, giant vitamins and drinking ground-up lawn, perhaps we should consider taking a quick spit to see if we’ll be passing on more than our beautiful faces to our children. Roughly one percent of couples find out they are both carriers for the same gene and at a “high risk” of having a child affected by a genetic disease. Considering everything else we do to prep for our future families, keep ourselves healthy and ensure the health of our offspring, isn’t this worth giving a spit?