Pregnancies can bring out a mixed bag of emotions – excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and joy. With the advent of technology and a plethora of information available, there are numerous confusing testing options available, and it can be overwhelming to understand what works best for you. One way to manage these emotions is with prenatal genetic counseling.
Couples can seek genetic counseling both before and during a pregnancy to understand the genetic risks involved based on their medical and family history. Genetic counselors can walk you through the different testing options available, interpret different prenatal screening and genetic testing results and help you make informed decisions about how to best care for you and your child. Your genetic counselor is there to listen to you, answer any questions you have, provide the much-needed guidance and emotional support.
Who Can Benefit from Prenatal Genetic Counseling?
Prenatal genetic counseling is worthwhile to anyone who wants to be informed about their child’s health, but there are specific instances where it’s an especially good idea. Here are some of the scenarios where you might benefit from prenatal genetic counseling:
- Advanced Parental Age: As our bodies grow older, there is a higher chance of having an ‘error’ in our eggs or sperms that come together to make a baby. Women over the age of 35 and men over the age of 40 are considered as “advanced age” and have the option of pursuing additional testing.
- Personal and/or Family History: Our medical and family histories, including our ancestry, contribute to the genetic risk of the fetus. Having a family history of a genetic condition, a birth defect (for example: a cleft lip or heart defect), intellectual disability, autism or other chronic health issues can increase the risk for the fetus to be affected with a similar health concern.
- Abnormal Tests During a Pregnancy: Abnormal findings on routinely offered blood tests and ultrasounds during a pregnancy can increase the risks for the fetus to be affected with a genetic condition.
- Infertility or Pregnancy Loss: Numerous genetic causes have been associated with both male and female infertility. Couples who have had a history of a stillbirth or history of multiple miscarriages can also benefit from genetic testing and counseling.
- Parental Concern: There are multiple genetic tests available to all pregnant women and during pregnancy including carrier screening, serum screening for conditions such as Down syndrome and diagnostic testing. Any couple who is interested in learning more about these testing options is a good candidate for genetic counseling.
Questions or Concerns About Genetic Counseling or Genetic Testing?
Any sort of test can be nerve-wracking, but a genetic test doesn’t have to be — genetic counselors can help you make sense of the results and your subsequent options.
As our understanding of genetics grows, the more useful it becomes when ensuring that you and your family remain healthy. AT-GC’s team of genetic counselors is available to meet virtually to discuss your options and guide you through the process. If you are interested in genetic counseling, talk to your doctor about a referral. You can also self-refer yourself your genetic counseling here.