Previously couples had to go abroad for the tests, which are widely offered in the UK, but they have now been licensed for use at the Beacon CARE Fertility clinic in Dublin and at the Cork Fertility Centre.
The tests are performed on embryos created during IVF, or in one case, on eggs prior to fertilisation. They enable specialists to better select which embryos to implant into the uterus and hopefully avoid any resulting children being born with the conditions they screen for.
The first type of test, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) will be available for people with a risk of passing on certain inherited conditions. The Cork Fertility Centre will initially only offer the PGD service to test for cystic fibrosis.
Ireland has the highest proportion of cystic fibrosis patients in the world with around one in 19 people carrying the cystic fibrosis gene. When two carriers of this gene conceive a child together, there is a one in four chance of the baby being born with the disease.
'Some couples will be aware of the risk because of a family history of cystic fibrosis; most couples only find out when they have a child with the disease', said Dr John Waterstone, medical director of the Cork Fertility Centre.
A second type of test known as array CGH will also be offered to screen both eggs and embryos for chromosomal abnormalities, such as that which causes Down's syndrome.
Dr Sandra Brett, medical director of Beacon CARE Fertility said that array CGH (comparative genomic hybridisation) 'is suitable for many patients, particularly women who are aged 37 [or over], men who have been shown to have sperm at risk of carrying abnormal chromosomes and couples who have had several miscarriages or failed attempts at IVF'.
A spokeswoman for Beacon CARE Clinic said that couples can expect to pay around €5,490 for the PGD of a single gene disorder while array CGH will cost €2,950 for analysis of up to eight samples. These costs would be in addition to the €4,900 that would already be paid for the fertility treatment.
Pauline Cullen, commercial director of the Beacon Medical Group, told irishhealth.com that the licensing of these services would have 'a significant impact on women and couples who are dealing with fertility challenges in Ireland'.