When is the right time for you and your spouse to visit a genetic counselor? Find out more about this specialist in this post.
Things to Know Before Visiting a Genetic Counselor
Genetic mutations occur naturally as a part of human reproduction and development, but these mutations can sometimes lead to genetic disorders that can affect a child’s health.
If you are planning on having children or are currently pregnant, the potential likelihood of these conditions occurring in your pregnancy may be causing you to wonder about how you can start to understand these risks.
Should you pursue genetic testing before becoming pregnant? Or should you wait to undergo a non-invasive prenatal screening test once you’ve become pregnant? What happens if your baby tests positive for a genetic abnormality?
These are all questions that parents-to-be ask themselves during pregnancy. Often, a primary care doctor can help answer them, but in special cases (like those who have a family history of a disorder or have already tested positive for a particular genetic mutation), additional guidance from someone with special expertise on the matters of genetics, inheritance, and genetic conditions may be helpful. This person is called a genetic counselor.
So, What Exactly is a Genetic Counselor?
According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors, a genetic counselor is a medical professional that is trained both in medical genetics and counseling. This gives them the unique skill set required to be able to interpret complex genetic testing results, determine the probability of certain outcomes, and to help guide their patients’ medical decision-making based on this information.
What Can You Expect From a Visit With a Genetic Counselor?
A genetic counselor will likely begin by asking detailed questions about you and your partner’s medical histories, as well as your family medical histories. This information can help them to gain a better understanding of what conditions you may be at risk of passing on to your children.
Next, depending on your circumstances, they may recommend genetic testing for you, your partner, or your unborn child. If you have already completed genetic testing or once your results are ready, they will then assist you to interpret those results.
A genetic counselor is able to evaluate test results and the likelihood of your child being born with a particular genetic condition. If you are already pregnant and find out that your baby will likely be born with a particular genetic disorder, a genetic counselor can help you to navigate this diagnosis, discuss additional healthcare you may need throughout the pregnancy, and plan for the child’s needs later in life.
How Should You Prepare for a Visit With a Genetic Counselor?
Make sure that you have detailed information about your family medical history readily available, and that you have all of your genetic testing results (if applicable). Your counselor will use this data to interpret your particular circumstances and present you the most accurate possible information about your reproductive future.
Is a Genetic Counselor Right for You?
If you are wondering whether you should see a genetic counselor, or if you have questions about genetic disorders and how they could affect your pregnancy, speak with your doctor. They may be able to address your concerns, or they will be able to refer you to a reputable genetic counselor in your area.