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Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis can be used by people who have a serious inherited disease in their family to avoid passing it onto their children. This page explains how the treatment works and which conditions you can check for.

What is PGD?

PGD, also known as preimplantation genetic testing (PGT-M), is a treatment which involves checking the genes or chromosomes of your embryos for a specific genetic condition.

Because the embryos need to be tested in a lab, you will need to have IVF, even if you and your partner have no fertility problems.

Embryos which have been tested and are free of the condition will be placed back into your womb to hopefully continue to develop. Historically, the embryo was usually transferred two to six days after being created (ie, a fresh embryo transfer) but now, the embryo is more often frozen and transferred at a later date.

Find out more about IVF

Who can have PGD?

Your doctor may discuss PGD with you if:

  • you have ended previous pregnancies because of a serious genetic condition
  • you already have a child with a serious genetic condition and want to avoid this happening again
  • you have a family history of a serious genetic condition, or
  • you have a family history of chromosome problems.

Which genetic conditions can be tested for with PGD?

GD can be used to test for almost any genetic condition where a specific gene is known to cause that condition. At the moment, nearly 600 conditions have been approved for testing:

List of conditions you can test for

What if I have a genetic condition that hasn't been approved for testing?

If there’s a genetic condition you’d like to be able to test for that hasn’t already been approved, your clinic will need to apply to us to add it to the PGD list.

There are strict criteria for deciding which conditions should be permitted so bear in mind it could be a lengthy process and you may not be successful.

Read our guidance on embryo testing for clinics 

Learn more about the HFEA’s PGD application process

Find a PGD clinic near you 

How safe is PGD?

The PGD treatment itself is thought to be very safe – there is no evidence that babies born following PGD suffer from any more health or developmental problems than babies born using IVF alone. There are risks from having IVF though.

Find out more about the risks of IVF 

Although an embryo can develop normally even when it has had a cell removed, there is a possibility that some embryos may be damaged by testing, which means they would need to be discarded and wouldn’t be able to be used in IVF treatment. In addition, PGD is not 100% accurate so there’s a small chance the tests may not work or may give the wrong information.

What’s the chance of having a baby?

As with most fertility treatments, success depends on many factors, including the woman’s age and whether there are any existing fertility problems.

While numbers of treatments being carried out are still low, PGD has become more popular. In 2017, there were 690 treatment cycles of PGD:

  • 90 of these cycles used fresh embryos and the birth rate per embryo transferred was 39%.
  • 600 of these cycles used frozen embryos and the birth rate per embryo transferred was 38%.

Why might PGD be unsuccessful?

Unfortunately, sometimes there are no embryos suitable for transfer to the womb. This could be because:

  • not enough eggs are produced or fertilised in the first place
  • removing the cells for analysis damages the embryos
  • all the embryos are affected by the genetic disease

How can I get PGD treatment?

Your first step should be to talk to your GP, who will refer you to a Regional Clinical Genetics Service for further advice about all your options.

In some cases, you can get PGD treatment on the NHS but it depends on your situation and where you live – your GP should be able to advise you.

If it’s been agreed that PGD is the right treatment for you, you’ll be referred to a specialist at a fertility clinic that  has a licence from us to carry out PGD treatment. This is a specialist service so your nearest PGD clinic may be far away.

Choose a clinic

You can also find a list of Regional Clinical Genetics Services in your area by visiting the Genetic Alliance UK website.

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Review date: 13 September 2021

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