Open Access Open Badges Research article

Challenges in the care for consanguineous couples: an exploratory interview study among general practitioners and midwives

Marieke E Teeuw1*, Anouk Hagelaar1, Leo P ten Kate1, Martina C Cornel1 and Lidewij Henneman12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Genetics, Section Community Genetics, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-105

Published: 26 October 2012



It is often suggested that an effort must be made to increase awareness among consanguineous couples of their reproductive risk, and to refer them for genetic counseling if needed. Primary care professionals are considered most appropriate for addressing the subject and identifying couples at risk during consultations in their practice. This Dutch study aims to explore the experiences, attitudes and beliefs of such professionals regarding their care for consanguineous couples.


Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with midwives and general practitioners.


Although most primary care professionals considered it their task to inform couples about the risks of consanguinity, during consultations the topic was generally only briefly touched upon and quickly abandoned. Important reasons for this were professionals’ beliefs about religious and social values of couples, their low perception of the couples’ reproductive risk and expected limited feasibility of referral. Feelings of embarrassment regarding addressing consanguinity did not seem to play a significant role.


Primary care professional beliefs about their clients’ religious and social values, their attitudes toward the risk, and perceived limited options for referral seem to conflict with the professional norm to address the topic of consanguinity.

Consanguinity; Primary care; Risk communication; Cultural barriers; Preconception and prenatal care