Genetic counselors work as part of our healthcare team, providing information and support to families who are interested in learning more about their chance to have a child with a genetic condition. Because every pregnancy has some risk to be affected by a genetic disorder, genetic counseling can be beneficial to anyone expecting a child or planning their family. The first trimester of a pregnancy is often the best time to meet with a genetic counselor, as many screening options become available as early as 10 week of gestation.
Determining if Genetic Counseling is Right for You and Your Pregnancy
Some reasons a person might seek genetic counseling in the prenatal period or prior to becoming pregnant include:
- Screening for low-risk pregnancies to identify unexpected issues that may impact pregnancy management or planning.
- Carrier screening to identify whether a low-risk patient might carry an unrecognized genetic change that can impact future children.
- Mother of advanced maternal age (35 years or older).
- Family history of a birth difference, such as cleft lip or congenital heart disease.
- Family history of a genetic condition, such as cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, or muscular dystrophy.
- Family history of postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorder.
- Abnormal fetal ultrasound or maternal serum screening.
- History of multiple miscarriages, stillbirth, or unexplained infant death.
- Questions about conditions that “run in the family” such as cancer, schizophrenia, manic depression, autism, and certain heart conditions.
How Genetic Counselors Can Help
Genetic counselors identify families at risk, investigate the problem present in the family, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, coordinate genetic screening, and testing, and review available management for the condition. Genetic counselors and families work together as a team to help families make informed decisions about pregnancy care that are in accordance with their values.
Genetic counselors also provide supportive counseling to families, serve as patient advocates and refer individuals and families to support services.