Prenatal Genetic Counseling
If you are planning to have a baby and have a personal or family history of certain genetic diseases, you may wish to consider genetic counseling. The ideal time to consider counseling is before you become pregnant (preconception counseling). However, even if you are pregnant, you may benefit from genetic counseling.
Genetic counselors are health professionals with a graduate degree in medical genetics and counseling. They are experienced in answering a family’s many questions clearly and thoroughly, and take the time to discuss problems a baby may face — all with compassion and caring.
Genetic Counseling for High-Risk Couples
People who may benefit from genetic counseling include:
- People who have or are concerned they may have an inherited disorder or birth defect
- Women who have had three or more miscarriages, have a history of a baby who was stillborn or had a baby who died in infancy
- People who are considering prenatal diagnosis (chronic villus sampling, amniocentesis)
- Couples who have a child with an inherited disorder, birth defect or mental retardation
- Couples who would like more information about genetic conditions that are more prevalent in their ethnic group
- Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant at or after age 35
- People concerned that their exposure to radiation, chemicals, drugs or infections may pose a risk to pregnancy
- Couples who are first cousins or other close blood relatives
- Pregnant women whose ultrasound exam or blood test indicates the pregnancy may be at a higher risk for certain birth defects or complications
Sometimes, the worries and questions about genetic conditions, birth defects and other potential problems with a baby’s health are overwhelming. A genetic counselor can help you make decisions about genetic testing and pregnancy. The counselor will help you gain a basic understanding of genetics and disease and help you understand that your child may — or may not — be born with a certain birth defect or genetic condition.
The genetic counselor will ask you questions about your family medical history and your own medical history. The counselor will assess how this information may affect your children and help you understand any risks of occurrence or recurrence of a condition.