Genetic counseling is a process in which a genetic counselor provides information and support to families whose pregnancies may have an increased chance for a birth defect or genetic condition.
This process involves identifying the patient's concerns, reviewing pregnancy history and family medical history, discussing any identified risks, and reviewing the benefits and limitations of appropriate prenatal testing options. A genetic counselor can help a patient reach decisions that correspond with their goals and personal values.
Genetic counselors also serve as patient advocates and refer patients to resources in their community that deal with a specific genetic condition, or to medical specialists, educational specialists or family support groups.
- Are pregnant or are planning to be pregnant at the age of 35 or above.
- Have been told their pregnancy is at an increased risk for a birth defect or genetic condition, such as an open neural tube defect, Down syndrome or trisomy 18, based on the results of an ultrasound examination or blood test.
- Have a family history of mental retardation, an inherited disorder or a birth defect.
- Are interested in assessing their genetic risks.
- Have had three or more unexplained miscarriages or stillbirths.
- Would like to discuss testing for conditions that occur more frequently in a specific ethnic group.
- Are close blood relatives, such as first cousins.
- Are concerned that their medical history, lifestyles or jobs may pose a risk to the outcome of their pregnancy such as maternal diabetes, exposure to radiation, medications, illegal drugs, chemicals or infections.