What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is a communication process during which medical information is conveyed to the patient in easy-to-understand language. This information helps individuals to make their own decisions regarding a future or current pregnancy. Genetic counseling is often recommended if:
- The mother is age 35 or older
- The mother has received an abnormal result on a maternal serum triple screen or alpha-fetoprotein screen
- There is a family history of a birth defect, mental retardation, or genetic condition
- The mother uses certain medications, alcohol, or drugs during pregnancy
- The couple has experienced multiple pregnancy losses
What is a board certified genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors are specially trained healthcare professionals who advise patients. A genetic counselor does not tell a patient what to do, but advises him/her of the options, including their benefits, limitations and risks.
Who provides genetic counseling?
Genetic counselors and perinatologists provide this service. In most cases, genetic counseling is performed by a board-certified genetic counselor followed by a discussion with a perinatologist. In rare circumstances, it may only be possible to speak with a perinatologist. However, a genetic counselor is available by phone or formal meeting to provide support or to discuss any questions or concerns that may arise.
What can I expect during a typical genetic counseling session?
A genetic counseling session usually involves a one-on-one conversation between you and a genetic counselor and/or physician. Typically, you would be asked questions regarding your family's medical and pregnancy histories. This is to assess if your baby may have increased risks for certain problems that may run in your family. It can also be used to determine if medications or exposures you have had will increase the risk for problems in your unborn child. Generally, an overview of genetics, chromosomes, DNA and inheritance patterns is discussed. The various screening and diagnostic testing options that are available are discussed as they are related to a person's individual needs. In this manner, genetic counseling may also assist a person in his/her decision-making process.