Genetic counseling is a conversation between a client and a genetics professional. Clients typically seek genetic counseling because of concerns regarding a pregnancy or a family history of genetic disease. The role of the counselor is to assess how much risk there actually is and to provide information regarding options for dealing with the situation. Genetic counselors believe in providing well-balanced information on the medical, scientific, and human aspects of genetic conditions. They function as patient advocates and support your decision-making.
When does it make sense to see a genetic counselor?
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you may want to consider genetic counseling in the following situations:
- you need information about genetic testing
- you are female and over age 35
- you have family members who have genetic disease, birth defects, mental retardation, learning delay, or unusual health problems. you have a history of fertility problems, multiple miscarriages, stillbirths or infant deaths
- you and your partner are related
- you have concerns about conditions more common in your ethnic group (ex: Cystic Fibrosis in Caucasians, Sickle Cell Anemia in African Americans, Tay Sachs in Jewish Americans, etc.)
- you are considering adopting a child with a genetic condition
- you have concerns about prenatal exposure to medications, drugs, chemicals, radiation, or infection
Genetic testing is complex and may take weeks or months to complete. If you have concerns, don’t wait! The best time to address genetic issues is before pregnancy.
Where can I find a genetic counselor in my area?
You can ask your doctor for a referral, contact a
genetic counselor through the National Society of
Genetic Counselors at http://www.nsgc.org.