Prenatal Genetic Counseling

A genetic counselor is someone who helps people understand genetic conditions, their risks, and any testing or screening options. Families sometimes meet with a prenatal genetic counselor when they have a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect or another genetic or chromosomal disorder. You might also want to talk to a prenatal genetic counselor just to understand the various screening options that are available to you.

Reasons to visit a prenatal genetic counselor

Of course, it’s a personal choice, but you might consider talking with a prenatal genetic counselor if you or your partner:

  • Have a genetic condition or a serious disease that runs in your family
  • Have a family member with a birth defect or an intellectual disability
  • Already have a child with a genetic condition or birth defect
  • Have a history of infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Are pregnant later in life
  • Are worried about the impact of your health or your lifestyle on your baby
  • Come from an ethnic background that increases your risk of certain genetic conditions

How can I prepare for my visit?

You’ll get the most benefit from your genetic counseling if you do your homework beforehand. You and your partner should sit down and make a list of all blood relatives and any diseases or conditions they’ve had. You might even want to speak with other family members to make sure you don’t miss anything. Be sure and include any relatives with:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hemophilia
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Intellectual disability
  • Birth defects
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart problems

Keep in mind that only about 3 percent of babies in the United States are born with a birth defect, and most families will choose not to undergo genetic counseling.

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