What is a Genetic Counselor?

Article contributed by Amanda G.

If you are thinking of having a baby, or if you have already received the wonderful news of your pregnancy, you will most likely be doing some research on how to maintain a healthy pregnancy. You may have questions regarding your health and the health of your baby throughout the pregnancy.

Genetic counselors work with you to answer these questions and can also help you through decisions such as whether or not you should receive prenatal testing based on the likelihood of your child being born with a genetic condition.

Why Would Someone Consider Going to See a Genetic Counselor?

Individuals with a family history of genetic conditions, or who have received abnormal an ultrasound, abnormal screening test results, have had a history of miscarriages, or have previously given birth to a baby with a genetic condition will want to consider visiting a genetic counselor. If you are considering prenatal genetic testing options, a genetic counselor will present you with the different kinds of tests available and can discuss the results with you, as well as help you cope with the emotions that may come up throughout the testing process.

What Kind of Training do Genetic Counselors Have?

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals that are specifically trained in genetic conditions and prenatal genetic testing as well as counseling techniques. Genetic counselors must complete a Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling and must pass a certification exam before practicing.

What Will I Talk About With My Genetic Counselor?

Genetic counselors are trained to collect specific information and analyze it to determine your baby’s risk of developing a genetic disorder. Most likely, you will discuss the following points during your appointment with a genetic counselor:

  • Family medical history, specifically any history of genetic disorders
  • Gynecological history, specifically any past pregnancies or history of miscarriage
  • Genetic conditions and birth defects
  • Different types of prenatal genetic testing
  • Treatment options for genetic conditions and birth defects
  • Questions you may have regarding genetic conditions, birth defects, and genetic testing
  • Understanding emotions that come with testing for and learning about genetic conditions
  • Useful resources that can provide you with more information, allowing you to make informed decisions and ask informed questions

How to Find a Genetic Counselor

Your obstetrician may be able to refer you to a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors work with a team of other healthcare professionals including clinical geneticists and obstetricians. You may also perform your own search on the National Society of Genetic Counselors website to find a genetic counselor in your area.

It is always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider or genetic counselor before making any decisions regarding your pregnancy. By speaking with a genetic counselor, you will have the opportunity to ask questions you may have about genetic disorders and your specific risk assessment associated with them. A genetic counselor is also a valuable resource to provide counseling through what can be an emotional and anxious process.

Article contributed by Amanda G.

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