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Genetic Counseling: What You Need to Know

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is a service offered by proficient, educated medical professionals who examine a patient’s genetic history and test results to determine the chances their child may be affected by a genetically inherited condition. The counselor helps patients understand the genetic research and informs them about their testing and treatment options.

Who Should Receive Genetic Counseling?

Not everyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive needs genetic counseling. Only certain factors influence your chances of having a child with a genetic disorder. If the following applies to you, genetic counseling is recommended:

  • You are a woman over the age of 35 who is or may become pregnant.
  • You, your partner or any family members have a genetic condition or developmental challenges.
  • The father is a blood relative.
  • You are taking medications or undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that could affect the baby’s fetal development.
  • You’ve had multiple miscarriages or stillbirths.
  • Ultrasounds or other tests have revealed the potential for a genetic disorder.

Since everyone has a different genetic makeup and health status, talk to your doctor about whether genetic counseling is recommended for you. Of course, even if you are just curious about genetic testing, counseling is open to you.

What Should I Expect During a Counseling Appointment?

Before you arrive for your appointment, talk to your relatives about any known illnesses or disorders in your family history. Bring this information to the appointment, as it will be helpful when the medical professional analyzes your family’s genetics and your risks.

At the appointment, you and the counselor will systematically document the health history of you and your partner’s family tree. This exercise will help determine the chances of your child inheriting any disorders.

What Tests May Be Recommended?

Based on the results of the initial counseling session, your counselor may recommend that certain tests be run to find out about you and your partner’s chances of passing on specific disorders.

For example, carrier screening can indicate whether certain mutations are present in your or your partner’s DNA that may affect your unborn child. More exact diagnostic testing processes, including amniocentesis, give more precise results about your child’s condition, but the results of the screening tests help soon-to-be parents determine if these options are necessary.

Deciphering the Results

Test results can be confusing and seem foreign to those untrained in genetics. Genetic counseling helps families understand what certain markers mean, and counselors offer impartial, professional advice on testing and treatment options. They also can answer questions about different conditions and help by referring patients to specialists when needed.

Trust Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center to provide guidance and support throughout this time. Genetic counseling and genetic testing are available for patients who are currently expecting or are considering pregnancy.

Jared Martin, MD
Dr. Martin is a member of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, Junior Fellow. Dr. Martin's areas of treatment include normal and high risk pregnancy, minimally invasive hysterectomy, urinary incontinence, and well woman care.

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