Genetic Counseling Services
Genetic counselors are trained healthcare professionals who provide information and support to individuals who may be considering genetic screening or testing, or may be at an increased risk for genetic conditions based on testing results, or personal or family health histories. A discussion with a genetic counselor before testing can give you the knowledge you need to make the best testing and screening choices. Following testing, genetic counselors can help you understand and process the results of genetic testing in order to make informed healthcare decisions.
Reasons to see a Prenatal Genetic Counselor
- You are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and would like to learn more about your genetic testing options
- You have had an abnormal genetic testing result before or during pregnancy
- You have had an abnormal ultrasound finding detected during the pregnancy
- You or your partner have a personal or family history of a genetic condition and want to know more about the chances in your children before or during a pregnancy
- You or your partner have a personal or family history of a birth defect or other health conditions and want to know more about the chances in your children before or during a pregnancy
- You have been exposed to certain medicine, chemicals, alcohol, or other factors and want to learn more about if/how it could affect a baby’s growth and development
What to Expect at a Genetic Counseling Visit
- Introduction: The session begins with a conversation about the reason for your visit, including the type of information you hope to learn from your visit and any concerns you may have.
- Family History: While the family history may not be the reason for the visit, your full family history can help with recommendations and/or decisions for genetic screening or testing.
- Information and Assessment: The genetic counselor provides information specific to your situation, such as the chance to have a child with a genetic condition based on your age during pregnancy, or the risk of a possible inherited cancer condition based on a family history of cancer. In any situation, options for testing and screening are reviewed. Genetic counselors will also explain what the potential results might mean and how the health care team works with you to make management recommendations.
- Decision-Making: The genetic counselor will help you understand the options for screening and diagnostic testing and consider whether you would like to pursue them.
- Suport: Genetic counselors can address the various feelings that may come up while having these conversations and making decisions. Some individuals may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they are receiving while others may also want information about support and advocacy networks.
- Follow-up: Genetic counselors may help coordinate genetic testing and have a role in reporting results when available. They are also a reliable source for additional information or resources as needed.
How to Prepare for a Genetic Counseling Appointment
- Discuss with your partner/family what type of information you are hoping to get from the appointment
- Write down all your questions about screening and testing options
- Obtain details about your family history. For example, a prenatal genetic counselor will ask you and your partner if either of you or your family members have had the following:
- Chromosome conditions, such as Down syndrome, trisomy 18, or Turner syndrome
- Birth defects, such as a heart defect, spina bifida, or anything that needed surgery after delivery
- Genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia
- Intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, or autism
- Hearing loss/deafness or vision loss/blindness from birth
- Two or more miscarriages, a stillbirth, or a child that passed away at a young age due to a medical problem
- Mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
- Cancer diagnosed younger than age 50
- If possible, bring your partner or other support person (family member or friend) with you to the genetic counseling appointment.