If you’re expecting a baby, it’s normal to have concerns about the health of your child before they are born. Through prenatal genetic counseling, parents can understand the risks of their baby being born with an inherited disease or birth defect and plan accordingly.
What is Prenatal Genetic Counseling?
Prenatal genetic counseling involves reviewing your genetics and discussing the risks and possible genetic conditions that you could pass down to a child. A genetic counselor explains medical information and results of genetic testing to couples. During a prenatal genetic counseling appointment, your counselor will also help guide you through your options. Prenatal genetic counseling generally follows a genetic carrier screening, in which each partner’s DNA is tested to see if they are carriers for inherited diseases.
What are the Benefits of Prenatal Genetic Counseling?
Prenatal genetic counseling allows parents to be as prepared as possible for any complications, birth defects, or diseases that their child may be born with. It also helps them to make informed decisions regarding their care throughout a pregnancy and understand risks involved. Finally, prenatal genetic counseling can help parents understand results of genetic testing, which can be complicated and difficult to interpret. Genetic counselors have extensive education in genetics, and can help explain results in laymen’s terms to patients.
Who Should Consider Prenatal Genetic Counseling?
In the United States, about 3% of babies are born with some type of birth defect. Since this percentage is so low, it is not necessary for all parents or couples to undergo genetic carrier screening or genetic counseling.
However, it may be recommended for you to consider prenatal genetic counseling if you fall into a category that puts your child at an increased risk for inherited diseases or abnormalities. Those who have amniocentesis results identifying a chromosomal defect can benefit from prenatal genetic counseling, for example. Parents of a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder may also benefit from prenatal genetic counseling when planning to have more children as well. Having a close family member with an inherited disease also indicates you should have prenatal genetic counseling. Finally, mothers over 35 are often recommended to have prenatal genetic counseling.
Patients who fall into certain ethnic groups also frequently have higher risk of passing on genetic diseases or birth defects. These include African Americans, Ashkenazi Jews, and those with Italian, Greek, or Middle Eastern heritage. In these groups, doctors frequently recommend screening for sickle cell anemia, Tay Sachs disease, or thalassemia.
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Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!